Brendan Rodgers expressed his pride after his Celtic side all but guaranteed their place in the Champions League with a 5-0 thumping of Astana in the first leg of their play-off at Parkhead.
Returning midfielder Tom Rogic’s strike in the 31st minute was helped into his own net by defender Evgeni Postnikov before attacker Scott Sinclair added a second three minutes before the interval.
The former Manchester City and Aston Villa player notched his second on the hour mark, winger James Forrest grabbed a fourth and a drive from Leigh Griffiths took a deflection off Igor Shitov for number five.
The Hoops knocked the Kazakhstan outfit out in the third qualifying round last season 3-2 on aggregate and only a remarkable turnaround next Tuesday will see Celtic lose out on the reported £30million-plus riches from Champions League participation.
Rodgers said: “I was really proud. It was a great demonstration of the progress the players have made over the last season.
“They had physical courage but they showed ability to be composed and handle the ball and have a belief in our shape and that was perfectly demonstrated.
“It was an outstanding team performance. We had good organisation, scored five goals and missed one or two chances.
“It was very complete in many aspects of how we work, a brilliant performance.
“We don’t have to win but we want to go there and perform well. We have to complete the second leg and finish the job off.”
Rodgers revealed that Australia international Rogic, who came off with a head knock sustained in the lead-up to Celtic’s third goal, appeared to have no lasting effects.
He said: “Tom is fine. He took a real whack on it but he is fine. He was smiling at the end, he obviously made a great contribution when he was on. I would expect him to be fine.”
Rodgers was able to confirm more good news for the Parkhead faithful by confirming midfielder Stuart Armstrong is set to sign a new deal.
The former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: “Hopefully Stuart will imminently agree a new extension. Hopefully we will announce it in the next 24 to 48 hours which will be absolutely brilliant for us.
“As I have said he is a player whom I have huge admiration for, this is the place for him to develop and he is a vital member of this squad.”
Astana’s Bulgarian boss, Stanimir Stoilov, who had predicted the Kazakh side would make the group stages before the game, said: “First of all I would like to congratulate Celtic on their win. We made several individual mistakes and at this level it has a dramatic (impact).
“We made mistakes and got punished and the second half was difficult. Celtic were playing high-class football and every time they shot it was a goal.
“We need to work if we are to play in the Champions League in the future. We will try not to lose at home. If we win it will be a good result for us. We have great support at home and we will play better at home.”