Neil Lennon’s side went into the second leg tie with a 2-0 lead against the Swedish outfit and Gary Hooper’s close-range strike on the half hour mark, effectively put the contest out of the reach of the visitors. And two minutes from time Victor Wanyama added some gloss to the tie as he headed home a Kris Commons cross to secure Celtic’s 2-0 win and 4-0 on aggregate overall.
Celtic welcomed back skipper Scott Brown, Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons who had missed the 4-2 win at Inverness on Saturday through injury, but took their place in the starting line-up along with youngster James Forrest, who sat out the SPL game at the weekend.
As for Helsingborg, there was a late change for the Swedish champions with defender Joseph Baffo replacing Loret Sadiku, who was not named in the starting line-up or the bench.
With the visitors looking to get an early goal and Celtic looking to keep it tight at the back, the opening exchanges of the game were a nervy affair and Emilio Izaguirre nearly gifted Helsingborg a perfect start when he was robbed in possession by former Rangers midfielder Alejandro Bedoya on 15 minutes, but the American rushed his shot with Celtic’s defence exposed and the chance was lost.
As Celtic pressed forward, the home support cheered them on willing them forward. Five minutes after the Swedish side’s chance, Georgios Samaras burst into the Helsingborg box after leaving Erik Wahlstedt and Ardian Gashi for dead, but his shot was a tame one and Par Hansson comfortably saved it.
On 25 minutes, Celtic claimed for a penalty when Baffo looked to have impeded James Forrest as he drove into the box, but referee Carlos Carbollo waved play on.
Moments later Hansson tipped a Samaras cross over the bar to concede the corner and from the resulting set piece Celtic scored the opening goal of the game.
Kris Commons – who Scotland manager Craig Levein recently revealed was seventh choice behind the likes of Barry Robson – played a short pass to Forrest whose low driven ball from the byline was cleared as far as Scott Brown outside the box.
But the Celtic skipper’s shot was mishit and was going wide until Samaras latched onto it and set up strike partner Hooper to knock the ball in from close range. Despite claims of offside, the pleas from the visitors fell on deaf ears and the goal stood, much to the delight of the home support.
With that goal, any chance of Helsingborg getting back into the tie effectively died as did the Celtic supporters nerves as they celebrated right up until the half time whistle.
Five minutes after the restart, Fraser Forster who had very little to do in the first 45 minutes, pulled off a good save to push a curling 25 yard free kick from Jere Uronen round the post.
Helsingborg striker Nikola Djurdic then hit the side netting with a shot following another corner moments later. .Forster was tested again from distance, this time by midfielder May Mahlangu but the Geordie keeper was equal to it.
On 70 minutes Samaras left the field of play, with the Celtic supporter giving him a cheer and round of applause, replaced by youngster Tony Watt who had starred in the league win at the weekend.
Watt had a chance to cap his appearance with a goal 10 minutes from time, but his header was easy dealt with by Hansson.
Moments later Forrest tried to get in on the act and smashed a shot from 20 yards out off the post, the rebound fell to Hooper, but the striker was flagged offside.
As the game entered the final stages, Bedoya tried to restore some pride for Helsingborg but could not find the back of the net and Hansson then denied both Brown and Watt again, before Celtic killed off the tie a Victor Wanyama headed in a Kris Commons’cross with two minutes remaining.
Forrest had one more chance to try to get on the scoresheet but he fired his shot over the bar, but by then Celtic and Lennon were thinking of what lies ahead of them in the group stages.
Celtic’s attention will turn to the UEFA Champions League draw tomorrow at 5pm, hoping for some big guns to bring in increased revenue to add-on top of the guaranteed £15 million that they will receive.
CELTIC (4-3-3): Forster; Matthews (Lustig 76), K. Wilson, Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Forrest, Brown, Wanyama, Samaras (Watt 69); Commons, Hooper (McCourt 90)
Subs not used: Zaulska, Rogne, Murphy, F. Twardzik
HELSINGBORGS (4-4-2): Hansson; Wahlstedt (Lindstrom 75), Baffo, Atta (Nordmark 80), Uronen; Bedoya, Gashi, Mahlangu, C. Andersson; Sorum (Accam 62), Djurdjic
Subs not used: D. Andersson, Bouaouzan, Alveroc
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