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Celtic on the brink of the Champions League group stages Seven goal thriller at Celtic Park

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Celtic are just 90 minutes away from the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since season 2013-14, after a 5-2 win over Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the first leg of their Champions League play-off game.

Brendan Rodgers’ side raced into a three-goal lead in the first half thanks to a goal from Tom Rogic and two goals from Leigh Griffiths. However, two quick-fire goals from Be’er Sheva in the second half shocked Celtic before the Scottish champions composed themselves and scored twice more through Moussa Dembele and Scott Brown.

Celtic came out of the blocks the quickest with skipper Scott Brown testing Goresh on three minutes with the Hapoel keeper tipping Brown’s shot wide.

But minutes later the Scottish champions took the lead, Scott Sinclair drove forward to latch onto a pass from Griffiths and as Goresh denied the former Villa player the ball broke to Rogic who calmly slotted home through two opposition defenders on the line.

Celtic doubled their lead six minutes before half-time thanks to a driving run from defence by Kolo Toure. The former Liverpool defender picked up the ball in his own half before running unopposed into the Hapoel end before laying the ball off the Sinclair, who found Forrest and Griffiths converted the winger’s cross.

The first half got worse for Hapoel as Griffith was fouled on the edge of the box by Shir Tzedek, Griffiths stepped up to take the resulting set piece and curled it into the back of the goal.

Pic: Brian Doyle

Pic: Brian Doyle

With Celtic Park in party mode going into the second half, the home support were stunned into silence as the visitors scored twice in three minutes.

First Lucio Maranhao shot past Celtic keeper Craig Gordon at his near post on 55 minutes, before Melikson latched onto a Nwakaeme pass to fire a low shot past Gordon from the edge of the box.

With Celtic looking as if they were going to lose their three goal lead within a matter of minutes, Rodgers threw on Nir Bitton to shore up the midfield and brought on Dembele to add another attacking threat for the Scottish Premiership side.

Just three minutes later the changes paid off with Dembele heading off a Griffiths corner to give Celtic a 4-2 lead.

Pic: Brian Doyle

Pic: Brian Doyle

Gordon was called into action once again to deny Maharan Radi, before Scott Brown fired home Celtic’s fifth goal on the night at the second attempt.

Celtic may have lost two away goals to the Israeli side at Celtic Park, but with a three-goal advantage to take into the second leg in Israel, only a calamitous collapse would see Celtic fail to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.

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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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