Saturday 25 November 2017

Celtic fail to fire in frustrating stalemate

Europa League wrap

IT was a hugely frustrating night of European football at Parkhead as Celtic couldn't find the spark required to break down an accomplished Sion outfit.

The home side were strongly tipped to build up a lead to take to Switzerland next week, but they never hit top gear.

Apart from Charlie Mulgrew's free-kick which was tipped over the bar by Sion goalkeeper Andris Vanins, and a Kris Commons header which was also saved, Neil Lennon's men posed little threat in the first half.

Scott Brown skewed wide after the break but the Hoops lacked penetration and will face a tricky task in the return leg in Switzerland.

Spurs handed Hearts a cruel footballing lesson at Tynecastle in a 5-0 thumping.

The visitors broke through the heart of the home defence three times inside the first half-hour to virtually finish off the contest.

Rafael van der Vaart slotted home in the fifth minute and Jermain Defoe and Jake Livermore further deflated the atmosphere. Gareth Bale, on 63 minutes, and Aaron Lennon, 12 minutes from time, put the icing on the cake for Harry Redknapp's men.

Chris Hughton's Birmingham came away with a 0-0 draw against Nacional in Portugal after a tenacious effort.

The Championship side hit the woodwork three times, with Chris Wood twice being denied by the frame of the goal in a five-minute spell either side of half-time and Steven Caldwell also glancing a first-half header off the post at the Estadio da Madeira.

Danny Pugh hit a first-half winner as Stoke closed in on a place in the group stages with a 1-0 win away to Switzerland's FC Thun.

Pugh's left-footed strike in the 19th minute left Tony Pulis' men needing only a draw in the return leg at the Britannia Stadium next week to progress.

Thun goalkeeper David da Costa was sent off in the final minute for violent conduct and in injury-time his replacement between the sticks, midfielder Stephan Andrist, tipped a Jonathan Walters strike round the post.

Clint Dempsey's brace helped Fulham secure a 3-0 home victory over Dnipro. The USA international scored either side of the break to give Fulham a commanding lead heading to Ukraine next week.

Aaron Hughes had given Fulham the lead before Dempsey extended their advantage, much to the delight of manager Martin Jol.

Rangers suffered injury-time heartache in Slovenia as NK Maribor grabbed a dramatic 2-1 win.

Juan Manuel Ortiz claimed his first goal for the club to hand Rangers the advantage heading into the break.

But Maribor were back on level terms after 52 minutes when Agim Ibraimi collected on the corner of the box from a throw-in and sent a powerful left-foot shot past Allan McGregor, and Etien Velikonja's backheel earned the hosts a last-gasp win to leave Ally McCoist's troops with a mountain to climb.

Irish Independent

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