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Monday 5 December 2016

Celtic will take two-goal lead to Iceland

Celtic's Dedryck Boyata celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round, First Leg, at Celtic Park, Glasgow
Celtic's Dedryck Boyata celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round, First Leg, at Celtic Park, Glasgow

Celtic's Champions League journey began with a comfortable 2-0 qualifying win over Icelandic outfit Stjarnan at Parkhead.

The part-time visitors came with hopes of spoiling the party in the first leg of the second qualifying round but even though the home side passed up several chances to take the lead, they made the breakthrough when defender Dedryck Boyata - making his competitive debut - headed in the opener a minute from the break from Stefan Johansen's cross.

The Norwegian midfielder made it 2-0 early in the second-half with a confident finish and even though second-half substitute Leigh Griffiths had a penalty saved in the 78th minute by former Motherwell keeper Gunnar Neilsen, the return game in Iceland next week should be a formality for Ronny Deila's side, who will face tougher challenges if they are to reach the group stages.

It was a game, though, to blow away the cobwebs for a Celtic side who had played only three pre-season friendlies in preparation, all at St Mirren Park.

Along with former Manchester City defender Boyata, Deila's most recent signing from Dundee United, Nadir Ciftci, was handed his first start, perhaps surprisingly, at the expense of last season's top scorer Griffiths.

There was a blow for the home side, however, when winger Gary Mackay-Steven had to withdraw before kick-off with an injury.

Celtic had the chance to make it 3-0 following the award of a penalty when Johansen was felled in a packed box. Following a row with Johansen, Griffiths' spot-kick was parried to safety by Nielsen, who made another great close-range save from Johansen, although both seem sure to be inconsequential in the final analysis.

 

celtic 2 stjarnan (Iceland) 0

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