Whether or not Glasgow Celtic can sustain a decent run in the Champions League remains to be seen. But for the time being they have every chance of progressing to the next stage at least thanks to a creditable 3-1 first round of qualifying victory over FK Sarajevo in Bosnia. Goals from Mikey Johnston, Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair gave boss Neil Lennon’s side the win and with three vital away goals you would think that the tie is all but settled; the second game should be no more than a formality for the Bhoys.
It means they have moved a step closer to the second round of qualifying given that they should have worries about securing a win and progressing past their opponents, the Bosnian champions, when they next meet at Parkhead on Wednesday of next week (July 17). That being the case the Hoops will probably come up against Macedonian champions Shkendija after they secured a 1-0 away leg triumph over Estonia’s Nomme Kalju — and if, as expected, they win through they will head to Glasgow on July 23 or 24.
Lennon was delighted with the win and can now make plans for the return fixture although he may have to do so without the services of both Johnston and new boy Boli Bolingoli — both of whom went off injured in the tie. The Celtic chief said:
“It’s a great position to be in. Considering where we are, so early and against really decent opposition who are tactically smart and a big threat at set plays, it’s a great performance.
“Mikey felt a twinge in his quad and so we’re hoping it’s not too serious. Boli rolled his ankle in the first half and it just got progressively worse. We had to fit a few square pegs in round holes because of where we are with the squad. But the attitude, fitness of the players and quality of the goals made it a really good start.”
Meanwhile, Champions League progress won’t come the way of Dankse Premier League champions Linfield, by the looks of it. They couldn’t make home advantage count when they met Rosenborg and came away disappointed from Windsor Park having succumbed to 2-0 first-leg reverse in their qualifier. David Healy’s outfit fell foul of strikes from Mike Jensen and Alexander Soederlund.
Elsewhere, Welsh side The New Saints let in two late strikes at home to Kosovans Feronikeli in a 2-2 draw to leave their Champions League first qualifying round tie on a knife-edge. Greg Draper was upended in the box then stepped up to convert the spot-kick before Aeron Edwards made it two when he slotted home from Joash Nembhard’s clever through-ball. But the concentration levels slipped and with the game heading for the whistle, Mevlan Zeka headed home and Simon Spender handled the ball in the box allowing Astrit Fazliu to score the awarded penalty.