Goals from Efe Ambrose and Georgios Samaras last night ensured Celtic eased into the 3rd qualifying round of the Champions League against Cliftonville.
The buzz around the stadium before the game had more of a pre-season friendly feel than a Champions League tie. The Cliftonville and Celtic support happily mingled outside the stadium before heading into the game.
Neil Lennon put out one of the strongest teams he could to make sure there was no chance of an upset. In the 16th minute this paid off when Efe Ambrose beat the keeper from close range after a cross by Anthony Stokes. Cue the acrobatics!
Celtic continued to be patient in their build up knowing they could be relaxed about the tie and could have went further ahead with shots from Kris Commons and Forrest bringing out a save from the Cliftonville goalkeeper Devlin and just shaving the top of the bar.
In the second half Celtic rarely got out of second gear. They had a bag full of chances but were finding it difficult to convert. Anthony Stokes had a fantastic opportunity to make it 2-0 when he was played in by Scott Brown but the Irish striker hit it wide from close range. On the 65th minute he was replaced by Gary Hooper who got a fantastic reception from the home crowed despite constant speculation he is ready to quit Parkhead. The Englishman sparked a bit of life into proceedings with a few nice touches and positive runs.
Georgios Samaras finally got that elusive 2nd goal when a fine cross by Commons was met by the big Greek who headed it in to the back of the net. The game was over.
Amido Balde came on to make his Parkhead bow and nearly got on the score-sheet but his header flashed wide. Hooper also came very close to a 3rd when his overhead kick came crashing off the post.
Cliftonville had the chance to score a consolation goal in added time when Fraser Forster picked up a pass back. Cliftonville took the indirect free kick only to be cleared off the line in what was the last action of this game.
2-0 on the night and 5-0 overall. It was a routine victory for Celtic who seem to be feeling their way tentatively into the new season. They must be more clinical in the coming weeks to dispatch tougher opposition.
Man of the match – James Forrest