Kris Commons sinks Aberdeen and sets up Celtic's day at HJK Helsinki

• Celtic lead Helsinki 2-1 after the first leg
• 48,000 at Parkhead for start of title defence

European distraction provides at least a decent excuse for Celtic's lethargic start to the domestic season and in the aftermath of the first win of their title defence the manager Neil Lennon conceded there was "flatness" in his team's play.

Such shortcomings are unlikely to go unpunished in Helsinki on Wednesday, when Celtic take a 2-1 lead to Finland for the second leg of their Champions League third-round qualifying tie against HJK.

With another SPL title virtually assured for Lennon's side this season, progression to the group phase of European football's premier club competition has taken on added importance. Those within Celtic Park are perfectly aware of that.

"Everything is possible in football and after two years together as a squad with the manager, we are building something good in the club," said the Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal. "We need to continue that with success in Europe.

"I've played Champions League with Maccabi Haifa and it's a great feeling. It's the best feeling ever I've had in football playing for Celtic and playing in the Europa League, but the Champions League is something different. I'm waiting for the moment to hear the music for the Champions League at Celtic Park and I'm hoping that we can do it."

Kayal also revealed he and his team-mates held a pre-season meeting and at which the importance of Champions League football was discussed. "The players spoke together about the big need to win the games to be in Champions League," he said. "Everyone wants to feel that moment of being there with a big club like Celtic.

"In the team now we have a lot of players around 23 and 24 years of age and we train together and are together in the dressing room. We spoke together about it and believe we are going to do it."

Kayal has been watched by a string of English clubs but he refused to consider what may happen if Celtic fail to progress to the Champions League proper. In that scenario, it is perfectly plausible that a player such as the Israeli would be sold.

"I have a plan for myself and that's to play very well and give my best for Celtic," he said. "Our focus is only on Wednesday and we want to do the job. I don't take the decisions about players being sold or staying here, I just look at the positives."

A Kris Commons goal – aided by a woeful blunder by the Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield – ensured a winning opening for Celtic and those in charge of the SPL could reflect on a decent first day to the maiden season without Rangers in the top flight.

In excess of 48,000 turned up at Celtic Park while attendances of 13,022, 6,523, 4,828 and 4,104 marked home matches for Hearts, Kilmarnock, Ross County and St Mirren.

Man of match: Kris Commons (Celtic)

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