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  • Celtic battle for vital Europa League win

    Celtic battle for vital Europa League win

    By: Martin Dalziel on 23 Oct, 2014 22:14

  • UEFA Europa League
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    (Scepovic 71, Johansen 77)

    FC ASTRA...1
    (Enache 79)

    TWO second-half goals from Celtic were enough to give the Hoops a vital win over FC Astra as the Bhoys maintained their unbeaten run in the UEFA Europa League.

    A powerful header from Stefan Scepovic and a close-range shot from Stefan Johansen were enough to give Ronny Deila’s side three points, despite a late flurry from the Romanians who pulled a goal back through Gabriel Enache.

    The rain which had soaked the pitch in the build-up to the game eased off at kick-off but the wet surface made it difficult for either side to find their passing early on.

    Emilio Izaguirre, who shook off an injury picked up at the weekend to start for the Bhoys, had some good early link-up play with Anthony Stokes  down the left and good pressure from the Irishman on the Astra defence won a corner for the Bhoys in the opening minutes.

    The striker floated a precise ball to the edge of the box for Charlie Mulgrew but his header went over.

    The Bhoys won two more corners in quick succession but it was Astra who next went close with a near post shot from their captain, Constantin Budescu. The striker collected a well-timed through ball over the Celtic defence but he blasted his shot over from close-range.

    And Astra almost took the lead when a corner found its way to Seidu Yahaya on the edge of the box.

    He rifled a shot towards goal which cannoned off Craig Gordon’s chest as Celtic failed to clear the danger and the keeper was forced to save well again, this time from Budescu low to his left.

    Takayuki Seto then had a chance to open the scoring for the visitors, and arguably should have done so but his close-range effort crept wide.

    Celtic tried to regain their composure but a spate of slack passing allowed Astra a further set of chances but the Hoops survived despite Enache’s shot whistling inches wide after he collected a stray Mulgrew pass across the defensive line.

    The Bhoys then passed up a set of chances as the half crept on. Mikael Lustig carved out three great openings with a trio of crosses into the Astra box, but Stefan Scepovic and Stokes failed to capitalise and the teams went in even at half-time.

    Celtic began the second-half with a flurry of chances which fell to Scepovic but the Serbian striker couldn't hit the target.

    A powerful cross from Izaguirre was fired into the Astra box and it evaded Stefan Johansen before hitting off Scepovic and going wide. Lustig then created space on the right and guided a ball into the box but the Serbian couldn’t convert, despite rising well to meet the header.

    Ronny Deila brought off Callum McGregor and replaced him with Aleksander Tonev on the right wing. The Bulgarian soon found himself in space on the edge of the Astra area and rattled a shot goalwards but it hit the side-netting.

    The Hoops remained in control of the ball as the clocked ticked on and finally made the breakthrough after substitute Mubarak Wakaso won a free-kick on the byline.

    Stokes floated a pin-point pass to the back post from the set-piece and Scepovic met it with a towering header which cannoned in off the underside of the crossbar.

    The Hoops doubled their lead a few minutes later when Tonev fired a low cross into the box which was spilled by Sliviu Lung into the path of Stefan Johansen who smashed a shot high into the net to make it 2-0.

    Celtic looked in control of proceedings but a counter-attack from Astra allowed Enache to convert from inside the six-yard box despite Izaguirre’s best efforts, to make it 2-1.

    A nervy closing 10 minutes ensued as both sides made changes. Beram Kayal came on for Stokes while Astra also made a double switch with Laurentju Rus replacing William Amorim and Vincent Laban making way for George Florescu but it was Ronny Deila’s men who remained on top.

    Scepovic went close again at the death after Lung spilled a Wakaso cross before the referee blew the whistle seconds later to give Celtic their second win in the group stages, putting the Hoops joint top with seven points.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, van Dijk, Denayer, Izaguirre; Brown, Mulgrew (Wakaso 65); McGregor (Tonev 55), Johansen, Stokes (Kayal 76); Scepovic.
    Not used: Zaluska, Ambrose, Matthews, Griffiths.

    FC ASTRA (4-5-1) Lung; Pliatsikas, Youssef, Oros, Morais; Enache, Laban (Florescu 86), Seto (Fatai 76), Yahaya, William Amorim (Rus 85); Budescu.
    Not used: Coman, Gaman, Chitu, Bukari.

    Website man of the match: Craig Gordon.

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