James Forrest’s last-gasp strike took Celtic into the Group Stage of the Champions League at the expense of Shakhter Karagandy. The Hoops won 3-0 on the night, bringing an aggregate of 3-2.
Neil Lennon had changed Celtic’s starting line-up going into the game. Virgil Van Dijk and Steven Mouyokolo were criticised in Celtic’s last game although tonight Efe Ambrose and Mikael Lustig lined up in central defence.
Karagandy looked solid defensively from the start and were putting their bodies on the line to stop Celtic from scoring, goalkeeper Mokin was in fine form and made plenty of saves in their effort to become the first Kazakhstan team to go past the qualifying round.
For Celtic, Charlie Mulgrew and Adam Matthews were recalled and were expected to provide both width and attacking flair on the flanks, the plan worked for the hosts.
It was a tense, frustrating first half for Celtic, Scott Brown should have been sent off after aiming a stamp at Gediminas Vicious, the officials missed the incident.
It took Celtic until added time in the first half to find their first goal; Kris Commons sending a bullet strike past Aleksandr Mokin from 25-yards out.
Their drive for goals continued just after the break when Georgios Samaras beat the offside trap and fired past Mokin from 12-yards. It was all square and set to go into extra time.
Karagandy were never out of the game and had plenty of shots, managing to hit the crossbar whilst also having a shot cleared off the line by Adam Matthews.
After a ferocious tackle on Forrest from Igor Zenkovich it looked as if the Scottish international would be subbed, although it was him who scored late on. Stokes weaved into the penalty box before pulling the ball back for Forrest who fired home.
It marked off a great night for Celtic, who move into Thursday’s draw along with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and now Arsenal, who beat Fenerbahce yesterday.
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