Celtic steer themselves back on course against Maribor

Away goal in Slovenia sees them hold the advantage over Maribor

Celtic manager Ronny Delia will hope his side can finish the job at home.  Photograph:  Getty Images

Celtic manager Ronny Delia will hope his side can finish the job at home. Photograph: Getty Images

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 22:07

Maribor 1 Celtic 1

Celtic breathed further life into their resuscitated European campaign with a confident performance in Slovenia that wiped away the embarrassment of their capitulation in the previous round and put them on course for the group stage.

Handed a second chance after Legia Warsaw were expelled for fielding an ineligible player in the second leg of their third-qualifying-round tie, Celtic were more than a match for a lightweight Maribor.

Celtic had travelled without the injured Adam Matthews, James Forrest and their captain, Scott Brown, but they quickly settled into a rhythm and the Scottish champions, attempting to reach the 32-team group stage for the third successive season, made the perfect start.

Stefan Johansen set up the chance by chipping the ball over the Maribor backline and although Jasmin Handanovic got down to save Jo Inge Berget’s shot, Callum McGregor fired home from close range.

But the Slovenians recovered their poise to equalise when the Celtic defence was split open by Zeljko Filipovic. Tavares was brought down in pursuit of the through ball but Damjan Bohar took over to slide the ball past Craig Gordon.

Both sides were intent on attack and Celtic posed the home side, in the playoffs for the third season in a row, serious problems from a succession of corners. A Charlie Mulgrew header from a Johansen delivery beat Handanovic but Filipovic headed the ball clear from under his own crossbar, and only a minute later the goalkeeper was nearly embarrassed by a delivery whipped in to the near post by the Norwegian.

Ronny Deila’s side appeared a much more coherent, confident one than the side beaten 6-1 on aggregate by Legia and Maribor, while promising on the ball, looked undernourished in the physical exchanges. Gordon was forced into two saves from fierce efforts though, the second from Agim Ibraimi before Dare Vrsic blazed the rebound high and wide from an angle.

Celtic held Maribor at bay after the interval but failed to make the most of a host of promising openings.

McGregor was a constant threat down the right linking well with Anthony Stokes, who wasted three good chances. Johansen should have done better after leaving two defenders on the ground to advance on Handanovic, but the ball ran away from him. Virgil van Dijk also tested the keeper with a long run and drive which was tipped over, before Gordon dived to flick over a long-range shot by Ales Mertelj.

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