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Jul 18, 2013

Celtic ease to victory

Scottish side Celtic have cruised to a 3-0 victory over part-time Irish side Cliftonville in their first-leg of the second round of qualifying for the Champions League.

Celtic's James Forrest tries to weave through the Cliftonville defence.
Celtic cruised to a 3-0 win over Cliftonville.

It had promised to be a nervy night for the visitors, who had lost all four of their pre-season games and who had a clutch of players missing for various reasons.

However, Neil Lennon's side, especially in the first 45 minutes, showed the professionalism and purpose which had taken them to the last-16 of the tournament last season.

Full-back Mikael Lustig gave the Scottish champions the lead at Solitude in the 25th minute when he broke away from the Reds defence at the near post to head in a Kris Commons corner.

Six minutes later Greek forward Georgios Samaras, who had revealed his aversion for the ground's artificial pitch before the game, finished off a move involving James Forrest and Commons by turning at the edge of the box and driving an unstoppable shot past Reds keeper Conor Devlin.

And in a one-sided first-half, watched by almost 5,000 enthusiastic fans who had packed into the tiny ground in north Belfast, Commons also hit woodwork twice.

With nothing to lose, Tommy Breslin's side rallied in the second half with Stephen Garrett missing a good chance in the 48th minute from close range after Lustig was short with a headed backpass.

Anthony Stokes hit the bar for Celtic with a drive before he set up Forrest in the 84th minute to hammer the ball low past Devlin from inside the box to make the return game in Glasgow a formality.

In other games, Sweden’s IF Elfsborg smashed Daugava Daugavpils 7-1 to all but seal their spot in the next round, while there were wins for Molde, Legia, Slovan Bratislava and Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

Finally, Shirak was held to 1-1 draw by Partizan, while HJK and Neftci could not take advantage of playing at home, bot held to 0-0 draws by Kalju and Skenderbeu respectively.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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