05 Aug Celtic seal Champions League play-off place
Celtic sealed their place in the Champions League play-off round after a hard-fought, second-leg draw with Qarabag to go through 1-0 on aggregate.
Dedryck Boyata’s header from the first leg was enough to separate the two teams following a nervy 90 minutes in Azerbaijan.
The Hoops were hemmed back at times but defended with steely determination to prevent the hosts from creating a real goal-scoring opportunity.
At the other end, Stefan Johansen could have put the tie beyond doubt eight minutes from time when he was played through but fired wide.
Ronny Deila’s side now progress but their place in Friday’s draw looked far from assured on a night full of tension.
They carried a slender one-goal advantage from the first leg but any notions of this being a comfortable experience in Baku were quickly dispelled.
A difficult playing surface and energy-sapping conditions meant that Celtic were fighting the elements as well as the opposition, and it was a nervy opening for the visitors as they had to withstand heavy pressure.
The Scottish champions restricted Qarabag in the final third as Scott Brown and Nir Bitton provided an extra layer of defence but on 24 minutes Hoops goalkeeper Craig Gordon looked uneasy as he flapped at an Alharbi El Jadeyaoui cross.
He atoned for his error moments later pulling off a fine save to deny Richard Almeida’s 20-yard left-foot drive.
At the other end, Nadir Ciftci, who was once again preferred to Leigh Griffiths, chased lost causes and looked at times a bit isolated as he was starved of service but he worked tirelessly before eventually making way for Griffiths.
The second half continued in the same vein with Qarabag attempting to take the game to the visitors. A flurry of corners failed to force Gordon into a save of note.
Armstrong went close for Celtic at the other end receiving a pass for Gary Mackay-Steven before sending a curling right-foot shot wide on the hour mark.
Despite the concerted pressure from the hosts they were unable to fashion a clear goal-scoring opportunity. A loose ball fell to Huseynov as Celtic half-cleared but his effort drifted wide.
Johansen was then giving a glorious opportunity to end the tie but the ball was slightly behind him and he fired wide.