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Musonda earns further praise in Celtic win over Zenit ‘millionaires’

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The Chelsea loanee provided the game’s only assist as Celtic beat Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 32 tie.

Celtic v Zenit St Petersburg - UEFA Europa League Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Two-goal hero Michy Batshuayi wasn’t the only Chelsea loanee to make a telling contribution in last night’s Europa League Round of 32 matches. While the Batsman continued the sizzling hot start to his (brief, probably) BVB career, Charly Musonda Jr has continued his not quite as sizzling but still quite good start to his (slightly longer) Celtic career — Michy’s loan is for 6 months, Charly’s is for 18.

Like Batshuayi, Musonda didn’t join his new teammates until the final few days of the January transfer window, but that hasn’t prevented him from buying into the Celtic ethos straight away and taking advantage of the immediate opportunities offered. Celtic boss (and ex-Chelsea youth and reserves coach) Brendan Rodgers has so far stuck to his word in giving regular minutes to Charly, unlike in previous loan opportunitites with Josh McEachran (at Swansea City) and Victor Moses (at Liverpool). Charly earned positive reviews for his first appearance, as a substitute against Hearts and was given the start in the subsequent two games (although Celtic lost one of them, surprisingly).

On Thursday, Charly was named to the bench as Celtic hosted Zenit St. Petersburg of the Russian Premier League. “Roberto Mancini’s Millionaires” as the Daily Record calls them are in the middle of their winter break, but despite that disadvantage, they held their own in front of the always raucous crowd at Celtic Park. Until Charly entered the fray that is with a little over a quarter-hour left. It only took the 21-year-old five minutes to set up Callum McGregor for the game’s only goal.

Not sure which is better, the assist or the chest control, but we’ll play the home field advantage and go with the assist.

Rodgers of course praised the team effort first and foremost, but did give a nod to the Chelsea kid as well.

“The level of opponent we have come up against really tested us to the limit and it was really important we defended well. Defensively we were very strong and the players were very clear in their roles. They showed great calmness with the ball. Everyone contributed. I said to the players that I felt 60 or 70 minutes would be the time to change it because we were playing with a shape that was going to be taxing for some of them.

“We got that fresh impetus. Charly took us out of the pressure and was very good. But it was very much a team performance and a very good result. I thought the performance was outstanding. We were playing against a top side, I think everyone recognises that. For large parts of the game we controlled it and it was a great piece of skill by young Charly and a brilliant finish by Callum, so I am very pleased.

“We defended well and looked a threat going forward. We’ll take the victory and clean sheet — and it sets it up very well for next week.”

-Brendan Rodgers; source: The Scottish Sun

Celtic travel to St. Petersburg next week holding the slim 1-0 lead to try to finish the job against Chelsea old boys Branislav Ivanović and Yuri Zhirkov (neither of whom got off the bench yesterday) and the rest of Mancini’s Millionaires.