Boyata strike boosts Celtic's Champions League hopes
Celtic 1 Qarabag 0
Published 30/07/2015 | 02:30
Celtic's Champions League prospects became a whole lot brighter after Dedryck Boyata's late header gave them a narrow victory over Qarabag at Parkhead.
The home side put in an insipid, error-strewn first-half performance in the first-leg of the third qualifier to give the Azerbaijan champions plenty of encouragement.
Ronny Deila's men improved after the break but aside from a great save by Qarabag keeper Ibrahim Sehic from a Virgil van Dijk header, they posed little threat until the 82nd minute when the former Manchester City defender, recruited in the summer, headed in a corner from substitute Kris Commons.
The Scottish champions have the goal to defend in the return game in Baku next Wednesday night - and they will be grateful for it - although on the evidence of the first-leg the tie is far from over.
Deila's men had beaten Icelandic part-times Stjarnan 6-1 on aggregate in their previous qualifier but Qarabag delivered on their promise to be a much tougher obstacle until Boyata's late strike finally broke their resistance.
Elsewhere, Rapid Vienna battled back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw with Ajax despite playing the last 30 minutes with 10 men.