Celtic smash and grab
Helsingborgs IF 0 Celtic 2:Celtic remain on course to advance to the group stages of the Champions League after leaving Sweden this evening with a somewhat fortuitous 2-0 lead over Helsingborgs. The homeside spurned a slew of chances after Kris Commons gave Neil Lennon's side an early lead and Giorgios Samaras's late header left them with a monumental task.
Commons grabbed a last-gasp equaliser at Ross County in the league on Saturday and volleyed Celtic into the lead with less than two minutes on the clock tonight, following a wonderful cross from Georgios Samaras.
Hoops goalkeeper Fraser Forster made a series of saves as the Swedish champions fought back and tore the Glasgow side's defence apart at times, but in the 75th minute Samaras put Celtic in the driving seat for next week’s second leg in Glasgow when he headed in a Commons corner.
Neil Lennon’s side rode their luck at times but they could have won by more in the end as Helsingborgs chased the game. Barring disaster in the return leg at Celtic Park next Wednesday they will soon be mixing it with the elite clubs in Europe for the first time since the 2008/09 season.
Lennon was full of praise for his goalkeeper Forster afterwards.
“Fraser’s done his chances (of an England call-up) no harm tonight,” he said on ITV1. “I said you’d have an audience tonight and to go and show them how good you are. I thought he was excellent tonight. We’ve been banging the drum about him for a while, but it’s not for us to say.”
However, Lennon also admitted his side had been flattered by a scoreline.
“We had to rely on our goalkeeper. That’s what you have to do away from home,” he said. “The second half we were a lot better; we had to change the shape of the team.
“I’m very grateful for the two goals and the clean sheet. The job is only half done. There is a big game at Celtic Park to come. Helsingborg showed how dangerous they can be.”
Champions League play-off round first leg results
Spartak Moscow 2 Fenerbahce 1
Basel 1 Cluj 2
M'gladbach 1 Dynamo Kiev 3
FC Copenhagen 1 Lille 0
Helsingborgs 0 Celtic 2