On Tuesday and Wednesday, the road to Lisbon continued as the first leg of the second qualifying took place. The Scottish champions Celtic blew away their pre-season form by battering brave Cliftonville 3-0 without getting out of first gear.
The game started at a frantic pace a foul by Kelvin Wilson gave Cliftonville a free kick inside 30 seconds Boyce hit wall and it was cleared by Celtic defence. Caldwell lost the ball to Scott Brown on the edge of the Celtic box Samaras and Brown break with purpose the pass from Samaras wide-right to Forrest whose cross was headed onto the bar by Kris Commons. Celtic grabbed a foot-hold breaking at pace on several occasions , Celtic attacked on the 23rd minute Forrest beat the left back, the Cliftonville captain George McMullan almost put through his own net, from the resulting corner swung in by Commons ; Lustig leapt unchallenged to score the vital away goal and put Celtic ahead. Liam Boyce got in behind the Celtic defence and his low shot was easily saved by Fraser Foster who’s been not much more than a spectator at this point. Throw- in to Cliftonville and the ball given away by Garret on the edge of the Celtic box Efe Ambrose fires the ball out wide right to James Forrest who beat his man before the ball deflected to Commons who set up the Greek Samaras to fire Celtic 2-0 ahead and firmly in the comfort zone. Another quick free-kick Samaras to Commons who turned the defender and hit the inside of the post with a curling shot. As the half came to a close Celtic looking much the stronger and Lennon was the happier of the two managers, Cliftonville played some nice neat football, but Foster in the Celtic goal had very little to do.
Three minutes into the second half came Cliftonville’s best chance long ball which wasn’t dealt well by goalscorer Mikael Lustig allowed Garrett in and his shot was poor easily saved by Foster. Cliftonville continued in the same vein as the first half, nice neat football up-til the edge of the Celtic box and no cutting edge, by this time Celtic very much playing in 1st gear and not pushing the game. Liam Boyce dispossessing Kelvin Wilson on the touchline setting up strike partner Joe Gormley who was denied by a last ditch Lustig tackle. Cliftonville attacks down the left hand side the ball crossed into the box a deft touch by Cairan Caldwell that landed at the feet of centre half Mark Smyth, whose shot was blocked by Kelvin Wilson, by this stage Cliftonville taking advantage of Celtic taking their foot off the gas without being able to find the back of the net. In the 67th minute Forrest draws two defenders to him giving the pass to the un-marked Stokes a chance which he hit the bar. Forrest has been a threat all night causing the Cliftonville defence problems with his movement and pace. As the first leg came to a close it was clear that Celtic’s quality shone through and Forrest completed the scoring with seven minutes left and well deserved the Man of The Match award.
Many thought this would be a banana skin for Celtic but they went about their job in a thoroughly professional manner having too much for the Part-time Northern Irish champions and effectively booking their place in the next round of qualifiers, ahead of the return leg at Parkhead next Tuesday.
Celtic were not the only team from the British Isles in competition this week, Welsh side The New Saints and Sligo Rovers from Ireland both suffered defeats in their first leg ties with Polish side Legia Warsaw and Norwegians’ Molde, respectively.
TNS face an uphill battle to reach the next stage after they lost 3-1 to Polish champions Legia Warsaw on Wednesday night. The match marked a year on from when TNS drew with Swedish champions Helsingborgs, but there was no repeat of those heroics around. TNS did take a surprise lead after 11 minutes when Ryan Fraughan scored and they almost doubled their lead four minutes before the break when Alex Darlington hit the crossbar. However, just after the restart, Legia levelled through Michal Kucharczyk. The Polish side then went ahead 10 minutes later through Michal Saganowski and they went on to control the remainder of the game. Jakub Kosecki had a shot blocked and the Poles forced a series of corners before Michael Wilde missed an opportunity to equalise with a little more than a quarter of an hour remaining. They were made to pay for that when Kosecki scored Legia’s third goal a minute later to seal the win.
Nigerian striker Daniel Chima scored a vital first-half goal which means Sligo Rovers will have to go to Norway and find a way to win to keep their dream alive at Molde‘s expense. The striker struck three minutes before half-time at The Showgrounds as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men earned an advantage to take back to Norway for Tuesday’s return leg.
TUESDAY 16TH JULY 2013
Viktoria Plzen 4-3 Zeljeznicar Sarajevo
BATE Borisov 0-1 FC Shakhtyor Karaganda
Dinamo Tbilisi 6-1 EB Streymur
Ekranas Panevezys 0-1 FH Hafnarfjordur
Sheriff Tiraspol 1-1 Sutjeska
Birkirkara 0-0 NK Maribor
CS Fola Esch 0-5 Dinamo Zagreb
Steaua Bucharest 3-0 Vardar Skopje
WEDNESDAY 17TH JULY 2013
Shirak 1-1 Partizan Belgrade
HJK Helsinki 0-0 Nomme Kalju
Neftchi 0-0 Skenderbeu
Elfsborg 7-1 FC Daugava
Sligo 0-1 Molde
Slovan Bratislava 2-1 Ludogorets Razgrad
The New Saints 1-3 Legia Warsaw
Gyor ETO FC 0-2 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Cliftonville 0-3 Celtic
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