Dembele on spot with late clincher
Celtic 2-1 Astana (Celtic win 3-2 on agg)
Published 04/08/2016 | 02:30
Moussa Dembele's first Celtic goal gave the Hoops a dramatic last-gasp win over Astana and booked them a place in the Champions League play-off.
The third qualifying tie had swung towards Brendan Rodgers' side after the 1-1 draw in Kazakhstan and striker Leigh Griffiths, who levelled in the Astana Arena, scored from the spot on the stroke of half-time before substitute Agim Ibraimi levelled with an opportunist long-range effort.
However, in stoppage time, French forward Dembele, on for James Forrest, slammed in a penalty after he had been tripped by Igor Shitov, who was sent packing by Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs for a second booking, with Dmitri Shomko following him amid the mayhem.
It was a crazy end to the match but the Scottish Champions go into tomorrow's play-off draw looking for a favourable tie which will see them into the competition proper for the first time in three seasons.
Rodgers had some selection dilemmas beforehand and although there was little surprise that much-criticised Efe Ambrose was dropped from central defence, the Nigeria international was not even on the bench. Right-back Saidy Janko came into the team with Mikael Lustig moving inside to partner 20-year-old Corkman Eoghan O'Connell.
Defender Kolo Toure started on the bench and the 35-year-old's fellow new signing Dembele was also dropped from attack for James Forrest with Griffiths leading the line. The visitors were soon on the back foot. However, the minutes ebbed with visiting keeper Nenad Eric seeing little action although a 20-yard snap-shot from Griffiths midway through the first-half cleared the far post but not by much.
Celtic suffered a blow on the half-hour mark when winger Patrick Roberts went off after picking up an injury to be replaced by midfielder Stefan Johansen and then with the last kick of the first-half amid some drama, the home side got the breakthrough.
When Abzal Beysebekov clumsily fouled Tierney inside the box as they challenged for a bouncing ball, referee Kovacs pointed to the spot. After a delay, Griffiths took great delight in smashing the spot-kick past Eric.
The goal lifted the home crowd and they went for number two from the restart.
Roger Canas had the ball in the net in the 56th minute but the assistant's flag was up to the relief of the Hoops fans but there was despair around the corner.
On the hour mark Toure replaced Armstrong to make his debut but moments later it was all square.
Gordon raced outside his box to head clear a through ball and although it went a decent distance, Ibraimi, on for Azat Nurgaliyev controlled the ball and quickly sent it soaring into the empty net.
The game stretched further. Shitov, booked in the first half, was lucky to escape punishment after a foul on Griffiths but he got his just reward for a trip on Dembele who became the Parkhead hero by despatching the crucial penalty.