Confident Celtic take a huge step

 

CELTIC TOOK a giant step closer to the Champions League group stages with a superb win over Helsingborg in the first leg of their play-off at the Olympia Stadium in Sweden night.

Kris Commons volleyed the visitors into the lead with less than two minutes on the clock following a cross from Georgios Samaras.

Hoops goalkeeper Fraser Forster made a series of saves as the Swedish champions fought back but in the 75th minute Samaras put Celtic in the driving seat for next week’s second leg in Glasgow by doubling the lead.

Neil Lennon’s side might have rode their luck at times but they could have won by more in the end and now face the tantalising prospect of mixing with the elite clubs in Europe for the first time since the 2008/09 season.

Skipper Scott Brown and striker Gary Hooper shrugged off their respective hip and hamstring injuries to start for Celtic, while defender Thomas Rogne replaced Kelvin Wilson.

Celtic stormed into an early lead as Samaras picked up a pass from Joe Ledley on the left and, when his cross came into the middle, the unmarked Commons slammed the ball to the net from 12 yards.

But the Parkhead side were fortunate to have their lead intact by the interval. Djurdic’s angled shot tested Forster after 12 minutes and four minutes later the Geordie made a save with his feet from Bedoya’s low drive before later saving again from Sorum’s chip.

Bedoya headed an Andersson cross wide of the target before Djurdic fired over from 16 yards.

Winger James Forrest replaced Kayal for the start of the second half, with Commons moving into the middle to support Hooper.

In the 50th minute Forster had to deal with Mahlangu’s 25-yard drive before Andersson fired just wide. But Celtic’s sucker punch came when Commons’ corner from the right was headed past Hansson by Samaras at the back post to put Celtic firmly in the driving seat.

HELSINGBORGS IF:Hansson, Atta, Christoffer Andersson, Wahlstedt (Accam 63), Uronen, Sadiku, Mahlangu, Gashi, Bedoya, Sorum (Dos Santos 65), Djurdjic. Subs not used: Daniel Andersson, Nordmark, Bouaouzan, Edman, Baffo. Booked: Gashi, Dos Santos.

CELTIC:Forster, Matthews, Izaguirre, Mulgrew, Rogne, Brown, Commons (Watt 89), Ledley (Wilson 65), Kayal (Forrest 46), Samaras, Hooper. Subs not used: Zaluska, McCourt, Lustig, Chalmers. Booked: Mulgrew, Forster, Rogne.

Ref:Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal).

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