CELTIC have slain far greater beasts than Lincoln Red Imps, the semi-professional side from Gibraltar, in Europe in the past.

In fact, the Glasgow club have probably never encountered such inferior opposition, not KPV Kokkola, not Jeunesse D’Esch, not Inter Cable-Tel, at any stage in the 54 years they have been involved in continental competition.

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Yet, the delight in the stands at Celtic Park and the home dugout during this 3-0 triumph in the second leg of the Champions League second qualifying round last night was considerable.

The sighs of relief from many of those in a crowd of well over 50,000 at the end were also audible. Not least in the directors’ box.

The 1-0 defeat to part-time rivals comprised of customs officers, policemen and labourers last week was, without question, the most humiliating which Celtic had suffered in their entire 128 year existence.

Going out to a team of part-timers was an unthinkable prospect to a club which will this season celebrate the 50th anniversary of their historic European Cup triumph.

For Brendan Rodgers, their new manager, it would have been a savage, if not fatal, blow at such an early stage in his tenure. The comfortable win and 3-1 aggregate victory, then, were gratefully received by the Irishman and everyone associated with the Scottish champions.

Rodgers made no fewer than five changes to the side that had lost 1-0 the first leg eight days earlier. Efe Ambrose, who had been at fault for Lee Casciaro’s goal in Gibraltar, Nir Bitton, Tom Rogic, Ryan Christie and Saidy Janko all dropped out. In their place, Stuart Armstrong, Mikael Lustig, Patrick Roberts, Callum McGregor and James Forrest came in.

Rodgers fielded a three man defence with Erk Sviatchenko at centre half and Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig on either side of him. Scott Brown sat deep just behind Armstrong and McGregor with Forrest and Roberts out wide. Griffiths, meanwhile, played just off summer signing Moussa Dembele up front. It worked, albeit against limited adversaries, well.

This game saw the unveiling of Celtic’s safe standing section. The club got the go-ahead to install the versatile rail seats, which are similar to those used at many German grounds, last year and they have spent the summer renovating the in the corner of the Lisbon Lions Stand. It was packed out for the first home outing of the season.

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That there were precious few spaces available in it for a game against such lowly opposition suggests it will be a popular and successful innovation. A giant banner which read “Spirit of the Jungle” was unfurled above it before kick-off and a lusty rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was belted out by the large crowd. The Premiership flag was unveiled before kick-off by Bobby Lennox, the Lisbon Lion, and Rosemary Burns, the widow of club legend Tommy.

The Red Imps players would have been under no illusions about the magnitude of the task ahead of them to protect their slender one goal lead and progress after the pre-match entertainment. They were quickly under siege and even though they played with a five man defence it was obvious that it was only a matter of time before they conceded.

Julio Ribas’s team did well to repel their hosts for the opening 23 minutes. But they were then undone with three goals in the space of seven minutes. Lustig curled one into the side netting, Griffiths netted his first of the season and Roberts slotted home after a neat interchange with McGregor. Game over. The visitors only managed a single shot on target in the first half and Casciaro’s effort flew well over.

Rodgers felt comfortable enough to give Kristoffer Ajer, the Norwegian youngster, his competitive debut on the hour mark. Emilio Izaguirre and Nadir Ciftci later took over from Forrest and Dembele respectively. Raul Navas in the Red Imps goal was forced to make a few saves, but the substitutes were unable to add to their side’s tally. But the final outcome was all that mattered for Celtic.

Their prize for overcoming the minnows was another arduous journey to Kazakhstan. They will play FC Astana, who earlier yesterday defeated FK Zalgiris of Lithuania courtesy of a Marin Anicic goal in the second minute of injury-time, in the first leg of the third qualifying round next week.

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Celtic made the seven hour trip to Asia for a play-off match against Shakhtar Karagandy three years ago and ended up losing 2-0. Those involved that night, and in a tie which they edged 3-2, will appreciate what a difficult task awaits them. But they will be content to have the chance to clinch a spot for the lucrative group stages of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time in three seasons after surviving this scare against the Red Imps.