Goals from Efrain Juarez and Georgios Samaras against Utrecht allowed Celtic to take a step closer to the group stages of the Europa League as they ran out 2-0 winners at Parkhead.

With the disappointment of their Champions League qualifying defeat to Braga still fresh in the memory, the Hoops were well aware a positive reaction was required against the Dutch side.

Juarez, who also netted against Braga at Parkhead, is clearly enjoying the European nights in front of a home crowd and bagged the opener, before Samaras added a second to put Celtic in the driving seat ahead of next week's return in Holland.

Utrecht headed into the clash having already comfortably overcome SK Tirana and Lucerne in previous rounds of the competition.

But it was Celtic who could have claimed an early advantage when Marc-Antoine Fortune raced past Mihai Nesu on the right flank before whipping a cross to the feet of Scott Brown only for the captain to rifle wide of target from 12 yards.

Celtic looked dangerous and Samaras shrugged off his marker only to see his effort blocked at the near post, before the ball fell kindly for Shaun Maloney but he was denied the opener from close range by an impressive save from goalkeeper Michel Vorm.

The breakthrough came after 19 minutes when Beram Kayal supplied a lovely deep pass, which Samaras dummied and allowed to run on for Juarez, and he left the goalkeeper with no chance when he lashed high into the back of the net.

Celtic were celebrating again when they doubled their advantage with 34 minutes gone. Cha Du-Ri was the supplier with a cross from the right, picking out Samaras on the corner of the six-yard box who gratefully rammed home.

The visitors knew an away goal would help keep the tie alive and they almost pulled a goal back on the hour mark when a looping header from substitute Edouard Duplan was just touched over the crossbar by Lukasz Zaluska.

Substitute James Forrest could have made an almost immediate impact on the tie with a point-blank header that the Utrecht goalkeeper did well to smother on the line. A massive drop in tempo in the second half meant there was no third goal for Celtic, with the Hoops now hoping they can finish the job in Holland next week.

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Topics:
#Europa League
#Shaun Maloney
#European News
#Marc-Antoine Fortune
#UEFA Champions League
#Michel
#Queens Park Rangers
#Scott Brown
#Scott Brown
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