Events off the field may have cast a shadow over Linfield’s first senior competitive meeting with Celtic but manager David Healy described the on-the-pitch performance by the Glasgow giants as “total football”.
Sporadic incidents marred the Champions League occasion at Windsor Park - although Healy’s post-match comments centred only on praise for his players and the quality of the visitors’ display in a 2-0 first-leg victory.
Goals by Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic wrapped up Celtic’s advantage in the second qualifying round opening clash, with Linfield off to Parkhead next week for Wednesday’s away leg.
“All credit to the players in the second half, I was probably fearful at half-time sitting 2-0 down but we regrouped, got ourselves together and spoke to the players at half-time that we needed to get tighter and defend better,” said Healy. “I thought we were excellent considering the quality of the opposition.
“The disappointing thing for me as manager was they had 70 or 80 per cent of possession and they cut us open a few times but we conceded off two set-plays when we switched off and got punished.
“Last year I felt we were the fittest team in our league and I think we showed how far we have come as a team over the past year or so.
“I’ve huge respect for Brendan Rodgers, the football he plays and rotations were exceptional and something we’ve probably not seen, the Windsor Park crowd have probably not seen total football like that in a long time as we certainly do not play it in the Irish League.”
Carnlough-born Rodgers singled out Linfield goalkeeper Roy Carroll for special praise.
“Roy was outstanding and made some brilliant saves,” said Rodgers. “It could have been five or six on another day.
“We came here to do a job and to win 2-0 is nice.”