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  • Dominant Celtic secure first-leg victory in Belfast

    Dominant Celtic secure first-leg victory in Belfast

    By: Newsroom Staff on 14 Jul, 2017 18:58

  • UEFA Champions League
    Second Qualifying Round first leg
    Windsor Park, Belfast
    Friday, July 14, 2017 

    LINFIELD ... 0

    CELTIC ... 2
    (Sinclair 16, Rogic 22)

    CELTIC recorded a 2-0 victory over Linfield in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie on what proved to be a comfortable night in the Belfast rain for Brendan Rodgers’ side. Indeed, had it not been for the heroics of veteran goalkeeper, Roy Carroll, in the Linfield goal, the margin of victory for the Hoops could have been higher.

    As it was, first-half goals from Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic have put the Scottish champions in control of the tie ahead of the second leg at Celtic Park on Wednesday night.

    Within the first 60 seconds of the game starting, the Hoops signalled their attacking intent when Stuart Armstrong fired a shot on target from 25 yards out, and from then on it was a procession of Celtic attacks.

    Tom Rogic had a left-foot effort which just curled over after 12 minutes before another Armstrong shot four minutes later was deflected wide for the first corner of the game, and it led to the opening goal.

    Griffiths delivered a ball into the box, and although it was headed to the far post, James Forrest lofted it back into the six-yard box where Scott Sinclair’s header took a deflection off Chris Casement and ended up in the Linfield net.

    Carroll then produced two great saves to deny Sinclair a first-half hat-trick, but there was nothing he could do to prevent Rogic extending Celtic’s lead on 22 minutes. Again, the goal came from a corner. This time, Griffiths’ delivery was fired with pinpoint precision to the near post, and the Australian midfielder met the ball perfectly with his left foot to make it 2-0 for the Scottish champions.

    Linfield’s only chance in the first 45 minutes came from Mark Haughey, who scooped a shot high and wide from eight yards out, but the half ended with Celtic in the ascendancy and laying siege to the Linfield goal.

    Celtic had the ball in the Linfield net within 60 seconds of the restart, but Leigh Griffiths was ruled offside after he’d latched on to a Rogic pass, while Armstrong tried his luck on the 49th minute from just outside the box, but his effort was saved by Carroll.

    There was a moment of controversy in the 65th minute when Leigh Griffiths was inexplicably yellow-carded by the Spanish referee as he delayed taking a corner because of missiles being thrown at him by the Linfield fans, something which Griffiths endured again at subsequent corners, as did Jonny Hayes when he entered the fray.

    Brendan Rodgers made a double substitute with 20 minutes remaining, Moussa Dembele replacing Griffiths and Hayes coming on for James Forrest, and the Irishman set up Rogic, though his right-foot shot went narrowly wide.

    And Hayes was again involved on 77 minutes, jinking down the right-hand side before delivering a ball into the box. Dembele headed it down and into the path of Armstrong, whose powerful volley was well-saved by Carroll.

    And the Linfield goalkeeper produced two further saves before the end of the match to deny Mikael Lustig from adding to Celtic’s goal tally. But Brendan Rodgers’ side will be confident of completing the job on Wednesday night and progressing to the third qualifying round, where either Dundalk or Rosenborg await.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, Armstrong; Forrest (Hayes 70), Rogic, Sinclair; Griffiths (Dembele 69).
    Subs: De Vries, Izaguirre, Bitton, McGregor, Kouassi.

    LINFIELD (3-5-2): Carroll;  Stafford, Haughey, Clarke (J.Stewart 53); Casement, Garrett, Mulgrew, Lowry, Quinn; Smyth, Waterworth.
    Subs: Deane, Robinson, C.Stewart, Millae, Burns, Mitchell

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