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  • Griffiths at the double as Celts edge five-goal thriller

    Griffiths at the double as Celts edge five-goal thriller

    By: Mark Henderson on 19 Aug, 2015 21:53

  • UEFA Champions League play-off first-leg
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    CELTIC...3
    (Griffiths 3, 62, Bitton 10)

    MALMO FF...2
    (Berget 52, 90 +4)

    LEIGH Griffiths bagged a brilliant brace as Celtic edged Malmo 3-2 in Paradise – but they were only seconds away from taking a more commanding lead into next week’s UEFA Champions League play-off second-leg.

    Griffiths showed admirable composure to open the scoring from Stefan Johansen’s pass in the third minute.
    Nir Bitton headed home from Johansen’s corner seven minutes later as the Hoops ran the visitors ragged in the opening stages.  

    The Bhoys could have added to their tally as they dominated the remainder of the first half, but their lead was reduced early after the restart as former Celt Jo-Inge Berget blasted in from an acute angle.

    But Griffiths was not to be denied and his opportunist header in the 62nd minute put Ronny Deila’s side back in pole position.

    And it looked as though they would take a two-goal lead back to Sweden for the second-leg until Berget struck at the death, smashing home after a corner had ricocheted around the box.  

    James Forrest replaced Gary Mackay-Steven on the right wing as the manager made one change to the side that defeated Inverness Caley Thistle 4-2 in the league on Saturday.

    Amid a thunderous din, Celtic immediately took the game to the visitors, with Forrest earning a corner inside the first 30 seconds. Johansen’s flighted delivery was won by Virgil van Dijk, with the loose ball almost falling for Griffiths.

    The home side’s purposeful start was rewarded within the third minute as Griffiths made the breakthrough. Stuart Armstrong drove inside before finding Johansen who delivered a precise first-time pass into Griffiths. He remained calm, coolly rolling the ball under the advancing Johan Wiland.

    Paradise duly erupted and they soon had further reason to celebrate as the Hoops quickly doubled their advantage. Armstrong reached the byline and his cross was headed behind. From Johansen’s resultant corner, Bitton planted a header beyond Wiland to spark delirium in the stands.

    Malmo were reeling and Celtic were rampant. Only a low save from Wiland prevented Johansen making it 3-0 after Griffiths had teed-up the Norwegian in the box in the 13th minute.

    The visitors were struggling to stem the tide as Ronny Deila’s side attacked at a furious pace and pressed relentlessly without the ball. Another incisive break from the lively Forrest presented Griffiths with a sight of goal, the striker flashing a shot into the side-netting.

    Midway through the half Malmo mustered their first effort on goal as Vladimir Rodic was first to a loose ball on the edge of the box, with Craig Gordon turning the winger’s shot past the post.

    A sublime pass from Bitton had the away side quickly on the back foot again, however. Mikael Lustig scampered on to the Israeli internationalist’s through ball but his fizzing cutback had no takers in the middle.

    Are Hareide’s side were growing into the contest, but ambitious long-range shots from Nikola Djurdic and Rodic and a deflected shot from Jo-Inge Berget were all they had to show for their efforts.

    At the other end, the Bhoys always looked more menacing. Armstrong sent a rasping drive inches beyond the far post, before a sweeping move almost saw Forrest reach Griffiths’ return pass.

    Erdal Rakip blazed over for Malmo as they searched in vain for some kind of reply prior to the interval.

    It had been a fantastic first half from the Scottish champions and they immediately sought about reasserting their dominance after the restart but a quick breakaway saw them undone.

    From a Celtic corner, the ball was knocked clear and when Magnus Eikrem’s missed everyone in the middle, it fell for Berget, and he lashed a powerful drive from an acute angle beyond Gordon.

    Filled with renewed belief, Malmo poured forward and almost grabbed a leveller as Djurdic’s thumping drive brought out a superb save from Gordon.

    However, the Hoops soon recovered from that setback and were back in full stride, with Griffiths smashing a shot off a defender after the ball had dropped for him at the back post.

    And less than 10 minutes later, the two-goal cushion was restored. Lustig’s searching centre was only partially cleared and Griffiths displayed brilliant determination to loop a header over Wiland.

    As Celtic defended resolutely, it looked as though they would head to Malmo in complete control of the tie, a Djurdic shot that flew wide their only meaningful attempt as the clock ticked down.

    However, right at the death, Berget reacted quickest as a corner was knocked down by substitute Felipe Carvalho to stun Paradise and leave the Hoops with only a slender one-goal lead and plenty of work to do to keep their UEFA Champions League dream alive.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig (Ambrose 80) Boyata, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Forrest, Johansen, Armstrong (Mackay-Steven 63); Griffiths (Ciftci 73)
    Not Used: Bailly, Commons, Rogic, Mulgrew

    MALMO FF (4-4-2) Wiland; Tinnerholm, Arnason, Bengtsson, Yotun; Rodic, Lewicki, Rakip (Sana 81) Berget; Eikrem (Carvalho 72) Djurdic
    Not Used: Anderson, Konate, Molnis, Mehmeti, Vindheim

    Website Man of the Match: Leigh Griffiths

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