Super Celts shine in Sweden
By: Laura Brannan on 21 Aug, 2012 21:57
August 21, 2012
UEFA Champions League play-off, first leg
Olympia Stadium, Helsingborgs
(Commons 2, Samaras 75)
AN outstanding Celtic side earned themselves a valuable lead in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, defeating Helsingborgs 2-0 in the first-leg away from home.
The Hoops will take the two-goal advantage back to Celtic Park next week after goals from Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras put them 90 minutes away from the group stages.
Neil Lennon welcomed back Scott Brown, Gary Hooper and Thomas Rogne after the trio missed Saturday´s league match, and the Hoops got off to a dream start.
With just two minutes on the clock, Commons sent the travelling support into ecstasy, volleying home a fantastic strike inside the box. Samaras crossed for the attacking midfielder, and finding himself in acres of space he slammed it past Par Hansson with his first touch.
And the Hoops took great confidence from the early strike, playing some crisp one-touch football deep inside Helsingborgs´ half.
Adam Matthews sent a good ball to the back post on 10 minutes but in the end there was just too much on it, meaning Samaras couldn’t make contact with his head.
The home side pushed forward, though, and forced Fraser Forster into the first of many good saves on 12 minutes. He blocked an effort with his feet before parrying the ball away with his hands three minutes later from a dangerous counter-attack.
And six minutes later the keeper was the hero again, this time saving Alejandro Bedoya´s effort and maintaining the one-goal advantage.
There was a moment of panic for Celtic on 24 minutes when Adam Matthews failed to clear the ball on the halfway line, and May Mahlangu made a break. But the right-back redeemed himself, producing an excellently-timed challenge on the edge of the box to regain possession.
Helsingborgs closed the first half on the front foot, having pushed deep into Celtic´s half and creating a string of chances. But they couldn’t keep their efforts on target, and those which did go towards goal, were dealt with by Forster who was enjoying an outstanding match between the sticks.
The home side appeared to start the second half in similar fashion but the introduction of James Forrest after the break made a difference for Celtic. He brought an energetic pace to the right flank and looked eager to add to his side´s tally.
The winger had a chance from 25-yards out which went just wide of target, and two minutes later he was involved in a move which came straight from the training ground. Picking up Commons´ short corner, he laid the ball in for Joe Ledley who headed it off the crossbar.
Unfortunately for the Hoops, they then lost the Welshman to injury shortly after but that didn’t stop them searching for the second goal. And it came on 74 minutes. A fantastic corner by Commons set up Samaras and the Greek internationalist headed home to double Celtic's advantage, adding a crucial second away goal.
Clearly boosted by his wonderful header, Samaras went on a lung-bursting run down the left flank five minutes later, and almost made it three for the Hoops. He curled his shot just wide of the back post, though, and couldn’t complete his attack.
Forrest had another chance late in the match, but Hansson pulled off an impressive block to stop his drilling effort from hitting the back of the net. And with four minutes remaining, Mulgrew also came within inches, but saw his shot crack off the bar.
But despite the late misses, Celtic saw the game out for an impressive 2-0 victory and put themselves into an excellent position ahead of next week´s return leg in Glasgow.
HELSINGBORGS (4-4-2): Hansson; Wahlstedt (Accam 66), Sadiku, Atta, Uronen; Bedoya, Gashi, Mahlangu, C. Andersson; Sorum (Alvaro 63), Djurdjic
Subs not used: D. Andersson, Nordmark, Bouaouzan, Edman, Baffo
CELTIC (4-3-3): Forster; Matthews, Rogne, Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Brown, Kayal (Forrest 46), Ledley (Wilson 65); Commons (Watt 89), Hooper, Samaras
Subs not used: Zaulska, Lustig, Chalmers, McCourt
Man of the Match: Fraser Forster