Wednesday 21 February 2018

Celtic close in on Champions League groups with victory

Rosenborg 0 Celtic 1

Celtic's Scott Sinclair, right, and Rosenborg's Mike Jensen battle for the ball. Photo: AP
Celtic's Scott Sinclair, right, and Rosenborg's Mike Jensen battle for the ball. Photo: AP

Luke Edwards

James Forrest's second-half strike gave Celtic a deserved victory over Rosenborg in the Champions League third qualifying round and took Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys a step closer towards the group stages.

Following the scoreless draw at Parkhead last week, Celtic were again without their only two recognised strikers, Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths, from the outset so winger Forrest was tasked with leading their attack.

Celtic players celebrate James Forrest's goal. Photo: Reuters
Celtic players celebrate James Forrest's goal. Photo: Reuters

The Scotland international was thwarted in a first half dominated by Celtic, but he came good in the 69th minute, firing a blistering shot past Andre Hansen to put the Hoops into the hat for Friday's play-off draw.

Rosenborg found Celtic as keen to press as they were in Glasgow, which gave encouragement to the 400 or so visiting supporters in the near 21,000 crowd.

When Celtic keeper Craig Gordon made an easy save from Milan Jevtovic's low 25-yard drive in the 15th minute, it was his first real involvement in the match.

Reshuffle

The Scottish champions almost took the lead five minutes later when Jonny Hayes's free-kick from the left touchline found Erik Sviatchenko at the back post but his header was chested away from the goal by Nicklas Bendtner.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers ahead of the Champions League third qualifying round. Photo: AP
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers ahead of the Champions League third qualifying round. Photo: AP

Rodgers was forced to reshuffle his pack soon after when Sviatchenko hobbled off, with Nir Bitton replacing him in the heart of the Hoops rearguard.

Hansen then had to pull off a save from Forrest's side-footed effort from six yards, following a Kieran Tierney cut-back and then saved a Scott Brown drive and it was the Eliteserien leaders who would have been relieved to hear the interval whistle.

Two minutes after the restart, Rosenborg attacker Yann-Erik de Lanlay took a cushioned Bendtner pass and drove just wide of the target.

Griffiths came on for Hayes in the 57th minute, seconds after Tierney had curled a 20-yard shot with his right foot just past the far post, before Rosenborg skipper Mike Jensen hit the side-netting with a decent drive from the edge of the box.

Celtic players celebrate James Forrest's goal. Photo: Reuters
Celtic players celebrate James Forrest's goal. Photo: Reuters

There was growing anxiety as the minutes ticked past before Forrest took Scott Sinclair's pass and, from 14 yards, fired an unstoppable angled drive in off the crossbar before racing off to celebrate with the travelling fans.

As Rosenborg threw everything forward, Forrest missed a great chance on the counter-attack when he allowed Hansen to come out on top of their one-on-one but the Celtic man's earlier strike proved the most decisive moment.

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