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  • Boyata's debut delight puts Bhoys in driving seat

    Boyata's debut delight puts Bhoys in driving seat

    By: Martin Dalziel on 15 Jul, 2015 21:24

  • UEFA Champions League

    Second round qualifier 1st leg

    Celtic Park

    Wednesday, July 15

    CELTIC...2

    (Boyata 45, Johansen 56)

    FC STJARNAN...0

    CELTIC opened their 2015/16 UEFA Champions League qualifying campaign with a confident 2-0 victory over FC Stjarnan at Paradise.

    A headed goal just before half-time from debut Bhoy Dedryck Boyata was complimented by a fine finish from Stefan Johansen in the second-half to give Ronny Deila’s side a solid lead going into next week’s second leg of the second round qualifier in Iceland.

    The Celts missed the opportunity to put the tie out of sight when second-half substitute Leigh Griffith’s penalty was saved by Gunnar Nielsen but the win should be enough to give the champions the belief tthat they can finish the tie on the road next week.

    The match saw a double debut for the Celts with new Bhoys Boyata and Nadir Ciftci making their competitive bows in front of the home crowd. Mikael Lustig also took his place in the side at right-back for the first time in a competitive game since February.

    Charlie Mulgrew started in central defence alongside Boyata in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, who served a one-match ban following his red card against Inter Milan in the UFEA Europa League last season. Ronny Deila was also forced to make one change before kick-off as Gary Mackay-Steven was replaced by James Forrest.

    The first real chance came 10 minutes in when sustained pressure from Celtic forced a hurried clearance from the Stjarnan defence, which fell to Stefan Johansen 30 yards out. The Norwegian controlled well and spotted the run of Ciftci, who gathered the pass in the box and spun his marker but his low shot was saved well by Nielson.

    High pressing from the Celts then won their first corner after Ciftci had a snap shot from 20 yards out. Johansen swung the set-piece in but Bitton couldn’t make a connection in the six yard box.

    A string of goal-scoring chances were then passed up by the champions as they continued to weave their way through the Stjarnan back-line. Johansen saw a volley in the area go inches wide before Armstrong took aim with his right from distance on 24 minutes but his shot whistled just over.

    A quick throw-out from Craig Gordon then sparked a brilliant Celtic counter attack just before the half hour mark, allowing Johansen to drive at the Icelandic champions’ box and set up Armstrong inside the area but Nielsen got a block on the winger’s effort to keep the scores even.  

    Stjarnan looked like they had done their research and their compact defensive set up continued to frustrate Deila’s men. The Bhoys remained undeterred, however, and the Icelanders’ rearguard was finally penetrated by a well-worked set piece after the Celts won a corner on the right

    Johansen varied his approach by playing it short to Lustig and the Swede returned the ball to the attacker who had worked a wider angle for the cross. He then curled a pin-point ball into the six yard box where Boyata towered above his marker to power the ball home.

    The breakthrough was well-deserved and came at the perfect time, just on the stroke of half-time.

    Celtic stormed out of the blocks after the restart to press home the advantage gained before the break but that left gaps at the back for Stjarnan, who displayed more confidence coming forward and created two dangerous chances before the Bhoys doubled their advantage through Player of the Year, Johansen.

    Mulgrew carried the ball forward on 56 minutes and played it to Armstrong on the left wing. The attacker cut inside and ran parallel to the box before playing an incisive through ball to Johansen 12 yards out who calmly clipped his shot round Nielsen with one touch to put the Celts 2-0 up.

    Leigh Griffiths was then introduced before the hour mark as Forrest made way and Celtic went 4-4-2.

    The fresh approach gave the Bhoys a wealth of talent in the attacking department and it wasn’t long before the Edinburgh hit-man and Ciftci began to link up with clever flicks and interchanging runs. Captain Scott Brown also got in on the action as the Hoops morphed into full attacking flow and the skipper showed brilliant feet in the box to dance around a cluster of defenders but his shot was straight at Nielsen.

    Armstrong also continued to torment the Stjarnan defence and he clipped a delightful ball in for Johansen just after 70 minutes but the midfielder’s effort went over the bar. Johansen then turned provider as Celtic again tried to get Ciftci a debut goal but the striker couldn’t divert the midfielder’s cross on target.

    Attack remained the order of the day, however, as Anthony Stokes replaced the Turkish forward on the 74th minute as the Bhoys chased a third goal.

    Celtic were then awarded a penalty just minutes later when Johansen was pushed in back as he gathered a flick-on from Brown in the box. Griffiths stepped up to take the kick and fired it to Nielsen’s right with power but the keeper got two strong hands to the effort and pushed it wide.

    Goal-scorer Boyata then made way for Efe Ambrose as the game approached its conclusion but the Bhoys remained on the front foot and had a chance to make it 3-0 just before the final whistle but Johansen’s powerful drive inside the box went over the bar before the referee called time to give the Celts a solid advantage heading to Iceland next week.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata (Ambrose 82), Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Mackay-Steven (Forrest, before kick-off; Forrest off for Griffiths 58), Johansen, Armstrong; Ciftci (Stokes 74)

    Not used:, Rogic, Bailly, Fisher

    FC STJARNAN (4-2-3-1) Nielsen; Aegisson, Gudjonsson, D Laxdal, Arnason; Praest, A. Johannsson (Runarsson  73) Bjorgvinsson (Ottesen 86), Finsen, H.O. Bjornsson (Gunnarsson 80); Hansen

    Not used: Johannesson, Laxdal, Knutsson, Barddal

    Website man of the match: Stefan Johansen

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