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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 21 May, 2018

Brendan Rodgers eyes Liverpool reunion after Celtic thrash Astana

The Scottish champions look destined to qualify for the Champions League.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

BRENDAN RODGERS CHAMPIONED Celtic’s “perfect” performance in their 5-0 Champions League play-off win over Astana and revealed his desire for a Liverpool reunion in the group stage.

The Scottish champions were irresistible at times in Wednesday’s first-leg clash at Parkhead, eventually going on to demolish a side which initially looked capable of threatening.

An Evgeni Postnikov own-goal and a Scott Sinclair strike gave Celtic a 2-0 lead going into the break, with the Scottish Player of the Year doubling his tally after an hour.

James Forrest and a Leigh Griffiths-inspired Igor Shitov own-goal wrapped up proceedings late on, leaving Celtic on the brink of group stage qualification and Rodgers could not hide his elation.

“It was a brilliant result and performance,” he told BT Sport. “These are real pressure games at this stage of the season, but we produced an outstanding team performance and it shows how much the team has improved and progressed.

They showed great maturity to go on and finish the game and they could have had more [goals]. You couldn’t ask for any more. To have the evening we had — it was perfect.”

Celtic still have to go to Kazakhstan for the second leg, but barring a truly remarkable collapse they will be in the group stage, where Rodgers is eager to meet his former side Liverpool.

Rodgers coached the Merseyside club for just over three years until October 2015 and would relish locking horns with Jurgen Klopp provided Liverpool can progress past Hoffenheim, whom they beat 2-1 in Germany on Tuesday.

I hope at some time I can go back to Anfield,” he added. “Liverpool are a phenomenal team with a great manager. If we could both get through it would be [a] great [tie].

“They’re two teams with fanatical support and great history. We want to make sure we get there [to the group stage] and are in the draw.”

Celtic travel to Kazakhstan for the second leg on Tuesday, with the draw for the Champions League group stage scheduled for two days later.

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