Helsingborgs 0-2 Celtic

Celtic celebrate an early goal from Kris Commons

Celtic have a fantastic chance of qualifying for the Champions League group phase after a fine win against Helsingborgs in the play-off first leg.

Kris Commons volleyed home in the second minute but the Swedish hosts rallied strongly and Fraser Forster made several good saves.

Georgios Samaras nodded in from a corner on 75 minutes.

Celtic soaked up long periods of pressure but ended the game in control as Charlie Mulgrew hit the crossbar.

With the home leg to come in Glasgow next week, Neil Lennon's side are well placed to reach the lucrative group stage of Europe's premier contest for the first time in four years.

Celtic made the perfect start when Samaras broke down the left flank to deliver a cross for Commons, who hammered the ball down into the turf on its way into the corner of the net.

But the home side came roaring back and the lively Nikola Djurdjic, making his Helsingborgs debut, responded with a low drive that was smothered at his near post by Forster.

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Media conference: Celtic manager Neil Lennon

Former Rangers midfielder Alejandro Bedoya then broke free of the visiting defence only to see his low strike blocked by the outstretched foot of Forster.

The big English goalkeeper then surpassed those saves to thwart Thomas Sorum as the Celtic back line was breached again.

The striker was clean through but the advancing Forster threw up a hand to expertly push away the shot from 15 yards.

Skipper Scott Brown shrugged off a hip injury to start but struggled to exert much influence in a Celtic midfield missing the muscle of the suspended Victor Wanyama as the red-shirted home side streamed forward with menace.

A dreadful misjudgement from Adam Matthews near the halfway line allowed May Mahlangu to sprint clear but the Celtic full-back recovered to make a clumsy intervention on the edge of the penalty box.

Matthews certainly made no contact with the ball, although his challenge was just a shade outside the area.

Georgios Samaras scored a second-half header for Celtic
Samaras scored a second-half header for Celtic

The home fans were screaming for a spot-kick but Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca simply waved play on.

Helsingborgs continued to press and Bedoya sent a header wide before Djurdjic was off target with a shot after a purposeful surge into the penalty box.

The second half opened with Forster gathering a daisy-cutter from the swift Mahlangu, while Christoffer Andersson shot narrowly wide with a rising effort from 20 yards.

Half-time replacement James Forrest, on for Beram Kayal, helped Celtic retain possession for longer spells and it was from the winger's deft chip that Joe Ledley clipped the crossbar with a header.

Sorum dragged a strike wide and Jere Uronen curled a free kick into the arms of Forster after Thomas Rogne was cautioned for a handball, but Helsingborgs were growing increasingly desperate.

Home substitute David Accam scooped a shot horribly high from near the penalty spot after the impressive Ledley had to go off injured, with Kelvin Wilson the replacement from the bench.

The versatile Mulgrew was pushed into midfield to accommodate defender Wilson and immediately set up a shooting chance for Commons but the ball was not struck cleanly and posed no problems for Par Hansson.

However, the Helsingborgs keeper was beaten again with 15 minutes remaining when Samaras came charging in at the back post to nod in a high, looping corner from Commons.

Soon after, Samaras broke away from the tiring home defence with galloping run but sent an angled shot wide when Commons was well placed in front of goal.

Forrest then burst forward from the opposite flank and tested Hansson, while Mulgrew curled a shot against the crossbar from 20 yards with the home team in disarray.

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