Rich pickings for Celtic boss Ronny

RONNY DEILA will endure tougher games - in much less pleasant surroundings - as the manager of Celtic.

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Goalscorer Anthony Stokes, left, celebrates with Dylan McGeouch.
Goalscorer Anthony Stokes, left, celebrates with Dylan McGeouch.

But the Norwegian can reflect on the kind of start to his tenure that he must have been wishing for since he took over from Neil Lennon last month.

It was not the fact his Hoops side - or sides, as he changed the entire line up at half-time - defeated Krasnodar of Russia 3-1 in the first of their pre- season games in Austria.

It was the manner in which they played, confirming the ethos Deila has brought with him from Stromsgodset has travelled well and is being embraced by the men now under his charge.

Of course, after just 90 minutes of football nothing definitive can be assumed.

Any transition following a change of manager is a fraught time as players - especially those who have enjoyed success playing in a certain style under the previous incumbent - need to be convinced the new man knows what he is doing, and knows what they should be doing.

The former schoolteacher will be scheduling much more hard work in the training camp in Bad Leonfelden, and when the players return to their Lennoxtown base to put the final touches to their preparations for the opening Champions League qualifier in 11 days' time.

But at least Deila can point to last night's performance and consider it a marker that they are buying into his philosophy.

His reign could not have got off to a better start, Anthony Stokes putting the Hoops ahead after only 70 seconds.

The striker showed he has summered better than his expensive hair transplant as he cooly collected a lob over the top from Mikael Lustig.

As the Krasnodar keeper advanced, Stokes deftly lifted the ball over his head and into the net, to the delight of the small group of Hoops fans who had managed to locate the neat little Hofmaninger Stadion in the tiny town of Bad Wimsbach.

It was clear the Republic star was not the only Celtic player eager to impress at the earliest opportunity.

They were set out in a 4-3-3 formation, with Dylan McGeouch and Derk Boerrigter - booked for an over- robust challenge - wide of Stokes up front, and Scott Brown, Stefan Johansen and Kris Commons supporting behind.

THEIR hunting in packs, quick closing down and swift passing identified Deila's style from the off.

But in the heat of the early evening in Austria it was always going to be a tough ask to maintain that intensity, especially against a side which had proved its quality by finishing sixth in the Russian top flight last season.

Charlie Mulgrew and Virgil Van Dijk were not in the mood to stand back and admire Krasnodar's skills and pace.

The strength of their tackling was an indicator the usual softly-softly approach to pre-season matches had been waived on this occasion. However, the central defenders, along with full-backs Lustig and Filip Twardzik, were helpless to prevent Krasnodar drawing level after a loose pass in the middle of the park by Commons let Odil Akhmedov burst clear and shoot low past Zaluska.

The Polish No.2 was disappointed, perhaps realising these early pre-season games are his chance to prove new Bhoy Craig Gordon will not overtake him in the pecking order without a fight.

But Zaluska was the pick of the Hoops XI which played in the first half before they were all replaced at the break.

He made a couple of important saves, which meant that when Johansen chased down a seemingly lost cause seven minutes before half-time, rounded the stranded keeper and slipped the ball home from a tight angle, Celtic were back in front.

The second half line-up had a very youthful look about it, with Adam Matthews, Leigh Griffiths, Teemu Pukki and Beram Kayal feeling like veterans among the coterie of Under-20s kids - many having returned from loan spells - being given their chance.

Leo Fassan, Liam Henderson, Bahrudin Atajic, Stuart Findlay, Calum Waters, Eoghan O'Connell and Callum McGregor were only too willing to show they were ready to grab it with both hands.

Young Italian keeper Fassan pulled off a trio of ­eye-catching stops during his 45 minutes in the spotlight.

WHEN he was finally beaten in the closing minute, Findlay -fresh from a tough loan spell at Morton - was on the line to clear. However it was the skilful and intelligent McGregor - who spent last term at Notts County - who showed the benefit of the experience gained down south.

He put Celtic 3-1 up four minutes after the break with a well-placed shot from the edge of the packed area.

Deila had taken the chance to firstly see what the old guard could do, then the opportunity to see what is coming through from below.

He was given plenty of food for thought. However much time as he has spent studying DVDs of last season's performances, and running the rule over his ­charges on the training ground, it is only when they cross the white line - even in a friendly - that his knowledge of just what he has at his disposal becomes complete.

Gordon has become his first signing, but won't be his last.

They have three remaining games in the intensive pre-season schedule - they next play against Rapid Vienna on Sunday,

Those outings will also be used to give everyone their opportunity to convince the Norwegian they should be included in his plans for when the action gets competitive, against FC Reyjavik on July 15.

Football

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