Wednesday 21 February 2018

Celtic survive early fright to ease through

Stjarnan 1 - 4 Celtic (Celtic win 6-1 on agg)

Defender Charlie Mulgrew ended it as a contest when he fired in Celtic's second early in the second-half
Defender Charlie Mulgrew ended it as a contest when he fired in Celtic's second early in the second-half Newsdesk Newsdesk

Celtic eased past Stjarnan in their Champions League second qualifier but not before an early scare against the Icelandic part-timers.

The Hoops travelled to the tiny Samsungvollur stadium with a 2-0 advantage from last week’s first leg in Glasgow but found themselves under some unexpected pressure after only six minutes when Olafur Karl Finsen shot the home side into a shock lead.

However, midfielder Nir Bitton eased the nerves when he levelled in the 32nd minute from a Stefan Johansen corner and when defender Charlie Mulgrew fired in a second early in the second-half it was all over as a contest with late goals from substitute Leigh Griffiths and Johansen making it 4-1.

Ronny Deila’s side will play Qarabag in the third qualifier, with the first game at Celtic Park next week, and are sure to be tested to a greater degree against the Azerbaijan outfit.

It was the first Champions League qualifier held in Stjarnan’s 1,000-capacity ground with its one stand and plastic pitch.

In somewhat surreal surroundings, around 200 Hoops fans watched their side start positively enough but fall behind to a sloppily conceded goal.

However, the Glasgow side were not to be denied and just after the half-hour mark Bitton’s close-range header from Johansen’s delivery gave a flailing Gunnar Neilsen no chance.

Midfielder Stuart Armstrong came close with an effort moments later and Bitton forced a save from Nielsen with a 25-yard drive as the Hoops side went looking to forge ahead.

The second goal came in the 49th minute when Mulgrew took a pass from captain Scott Brown before hammering a drive from 20 yards low past Neilsen and into the corner of the net.

The tie was effectively over with only the final score up for grabs.

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