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Ten-man Celtic down HJK to secure Champions League play-off place

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Neil Lennon’s side were defending a 2-1 lead from last week’s first leg tie at Celtic Park, with HJK’s away goal giving the Scottish champions some cause for concern.

With the match goalless, Celtic were under the cosh at times, but their nerves were settled when Welshman Joe Ledley opened the scoring. However, Celtic were reduced to ten men when Victor Wanyama was sent off for a second bookable offence, before Samaras round off the scoring four minutes from time.

Celtic had the best of the first half with Gary Hooper proving to be a handful for the Finnish side. On 13 minutes, Celtic could have taken the lead after 13 minutes as Scott Brown latched onto a Charlie Mulgrew pass, however the Celtic skipper fired past the wrong side of the post when one on one with keeper Ville Wallen.

The hosts did finish the first half the best of the two sides, as Mika Vayrnen tested Celtic keeper Fraser Forster and Demba Savage went close also.

Into the second half and HJK wasted a number of good opportunities, as Forster tipped a deflected Sebastian Sorsa’s shot just past the post, before he saved a Mathias Lindstrom header.

On 67 minutes, Celtic broke the deadlock when Mulgrew’s cross picked out Ledley at the far post to coolly slot home.

Despite securing that valuable away goal, Celtic were under pressure once more when Wanyama was sent off after picking up a second yellow card. That gave the home side a boost, but they could not find a way through the Celtic defence and four minutes from time Celtic secured their place in the next round of the Champions League. Greek striker Georgios Samaras found the corner of the net from a Ledley assist.

HJK now drop into the Europa League play-offs, while Celtic await their fate in the next round with the draw on Friday at 11am. Celtic could face one of the following teams in the next round – CFR Cluj, Helsingborg, Maribor, Hapoel Kiryat Shmona & Partizan Belgrade or AEL Limassol.

CELTIC (4-3-3): Forster; Matthews, Rogne, Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Brown Wanyama, Ledley; Commons (Forrest 74) Hooper (Kayal 74) Samaras (Murphy 88).
Subs Not Used: Zaluska, Stokes, McCourt, Lustig.

HJK HELSINKI (4-5-1): Wallen; Sorsa, Lahti, Lindstrom, Sumusalo; Mannstrom, Vayrynen, Perovuo (Sadik 70) Schuller, Savage; Pohjanpalo (Pelvas 78).
Subs Not Used: Sahlgren, Kansikas, Okkonen, Hakanpaa.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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