Celtic take a 2-0 lead to Celtic Park on Wednesday after a comfortable win over Linfield at Windsor Park on Friday evening in the Champions League second qualifying round first leg thanks to goals from Scott Sinclair and Mikel Lustig.
Brendan Rodgers unbeaten Scottish champions started the game on top as Scott Sinclair played in Kieran Tierney but he over hit a cross that would have picked out Stuart Armstrong at the back post allowing Robert Garrett to clear.
Celtic however took the lead on seventeen minutes as Linfield failed to clear an Armstrong corner that allowed James Forrest to pick up the loose ball to cross back across goal for Sinclair to head into the net via a deflection of Mark Haughey the ball rolling into the bottom corner to the delight of the away support .
Rodgers side were chasing a quick second as Sinclair picked out Tierney on the edge of the box before his shot on goal looped off Jamie Mulgrew and into Roy Carroll’s grateful gloves. However, the Hoops were to double their lead on twenty-three minutes as a Leigh Griffiths quick corner caught the Linfield defence out the ball falling to Tom Rogic and he finished with aplomb.
Rogic was close to doubling his goal tally on twenty-nine minutes as the Australian midfielders shot from twenty yards out deflected off Mark Stafford and whistled just wide of the target. It was all one-way traffic in the first half as Sinclair fizzed a low shot on goal on thirty-nine minutes and it was Carroll who once again had to be alert to palm the ball away from goal.
Mikel Lustig should have made it three on forty-three minutes as Armstrong’s corner was only half cleared by Matthew Clarke the ball fell to the Swedish fullback before his weak shot dribbled across the face of goal and wide.
The Celts started the second half the way they had ended the first very much on top with Griffiths having a goal ruled out almost immediately from the restart as the former Livingstone forward was offside after Sinclair’s through ball had split the Blues defence apart.
Linfield’s first chance arrived on fifty minutes as Stephen Lowry swung in an inviting cross to the back post aiming for Andrew Waterworth however Lustig was on hand to clear the danger. Celtic should have had their third as Linfield failed to deal with yet another corner from Griffiths allowing Erik Sviatchenko to get a head on the ball but he could only direct it into the hands of Carroll.
Carroll then was in action once again on sixty-one minutes as Griffiths corner looked to loop into the top corner only for the former Northern Ireland number one to get a hand to it and push the ball away from danger.
Griffiths was then booked on sixty-five minutes as he was hit by a missile thrown by a Linfield supporter the Scottish forward shown a yellow card for reporting his situation to the referee a harsh decision from the Spanish official.
Sinclair then thought he had surely wrapped the tie up on sixty-seven minutes as Armstrong played a disguised pass for the former Aston Villa forward before his shot was deflected behind in a nice passage of play by the visitors.
Rogic thought he had his second of the game minutes later as Lustig played a low pass into him but he couldn’t control his shot and the ball span just wide of Carroll’s right hand post. Carroll was putting in a fantastic performance for the Windsor Park side and he made a terrific save to keep out Armstrong as he drilled in a low shot after a Moussa Dembele knockdown.
Linfield were tiring allowing Celtic to draw forward in more numbers as Lustig hit a snapshot from the edge of the area that Carroll had to deal with once again tipping the ball away from the danger zone.
Dembele and Sinclair were linking up superbly and the Frenchman attempted a back heel into the Englishman but he just put too much power on it that saw the ball roll behind.
This was the last action of the game as the Celts go back for the second leg with a good lead but they know there is still plenty of work to do.