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Neil Lennon's men take a vital advantage into the Champions League play-off second leg next week but manager insists the tie is not done and dusted

DIGEST
By Martin Macdonald

HOOPS ON THE VERGE OF GROUP STAGE

Celtic are on the brink of reaching the Champions League Group Stage after securing a vital 2-0 away win against Helsingborgs in the first leg of the side’s play-off tie in Sweden on Tuesday evening.

Neil Lennon’s side managed to make it to the play-off round thanks to a 2-0 victory away against HJK Helsinki in the previous round, and the resulted was replicated this week as a goal in the first couple of minutes by Kris Commons and a strike by Giorgios Samaras in the second half ensured a healthy lead would be took back to Celtic Park next week.

The Glasgow outfit got off to the best start possible in the match when Samaras found space on the left wing and hung a cross to the back post for Commons, who showed impeccable technique to volley the ball into the ground past goalkeeper, Par Hansson.

However, the dream start for the visitors was under threat for the next hour or so in the game. Helsingborgs attacked relentlessly and squandered a number of decent chances, with Fraser Forster keeping Celtic in the match at times.

The Bhoys managed to weather the storm, and grew back into the match in the last thirty minutes. The vital second goal was scored 15 minutes from time when Samaras got on the end of a deep Commons cross to head the ball back across goal and over the line.

The Hoops take their healthy two-goal advantage into the second leg next Wednesday at Celtic Park, where the main prize for both sides will be a place in Europe’s premier competition.

LENNON: TIE NOT OVER

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been quick to play down any talk that his side have already booked their place in the Champions League Group Stage.

The Hoops are in a healthy position in their play-off tie thanks to a vital 2-0 away victory against Helsingborg on Tuesday, but the Northern Irish manager has warned that a tough 90 minutes is in store before celebrations can start. Speaking to the media this week, He said:

“The tie is not over. A lot of people are already looking out their passports, but for me, we face another concentrated 90 minutes where we are at home and will hopefully have a good crowd behind us – which is very important. With a bit of luck, we can get over the line.”

Lennon has also expressed his desire for his side to get on the scoresheet early, in the same way they done in the first leg in Sweden. He said:

“The way Helsingborgs are talking, they are speaking about coming and getting an early goal and putting all the pressure back on us.

“We’re going to try and turn the tables again and get another goal and another goal could kill the tie off. We’re at home, we will take the game to them and see if they can withstand the pressure that comes with playing at Celtic Park.”

THE WEEKEND: ANOTHER TRIP NORTH

Celtic’s next match sees the Scottish Premier League Champions travel north for the second league game in a row as they face Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday afternoon.

Terry Butcher’s men have made a very steady start to the SPL campaign and are unbeaten in their opening three matches. They have notched up three points after draws against Hearts, Kilmarnock, and St Mirren.

The last encounter between The Hoops and Inverness in the SPL saw Neil Lennon’s side run out narrow 1-0 winners in Glasgow thanks to a goal from Joe Ledley.

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