Celtic downs part-timers to avoid Euro embarrassment

Celtic sealed its way through to the third qualifying round in the Champions league with 3-0 victory over Lincoln Red Imps that secured a 3-1 aggregate win on Wednesday.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers had raised a few eyebrows before kick-off as he named an attacking line-up that included just three recognised defenders.   -  Reuters

Celtic sealed its way through to the third qualifying round in the Champions league with 3-0 victory over Lincoln Red Imps that secured a 3-1 aggregate win on Wednesday.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg following arguably its worst ever defeat, the Scottish champion turned the tie around thanks to three goals in six first half minutes.

Mikel Lustig fired home a 23rd opener before Leigh Griffiths thumped a second past Raul Navas two minutes later.

Patrick Roberts finished off a fine passing move in the 29th minute to seal the win as the former European champion went some way to making amends for last week's humbling defeat in Gibraltar against a side that contained just five full-time professionals alongside a customs officer, fireman, a policeman and taxi driver.

Celtic, who are aiming to return to the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2013/14, will now face a 6000-mile round trip to face Astana after the Kazakh side needed a late goal for a 2-1 win against FK Zalgiris.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers had raised a few eyebrows before kick-off as he named an attacking line-up that included just three recognised defenders and five changes from the loss in Gibraltar while the Imps, unsurprisingly, remained unchanged.

Pre-match the former Liverpool boss had appealed for the patience and support of the Celtic fans' and they duly delivered as they roared the Hoops players forward from the first whistle.

Celtic thought it had been awarded a tenth minute penalty when referee Tomasz Kwiatkowski pointed to the spot following Ryan Casciaro's challenge on Stuart Armstrong.

However, after consulting with his assistant, he changed it to a free-kick on the edge of the box that Griffiths blazed over the bar.

The Hoops continued to press with Navas at full stretch to push away an effort from Armstrong before Callum McGregor's deflected shot cannoned off the bar.

McGregor was involved again moments later as his prodded effort took a couple of deflections before Navas turned the ball round the post.

The breakthrough came as Lustig opened the scoring to restore parity in the tie.

The visitor failed to clear its line from a free-kick and the Swede did well to swivel in a congested penalty area and fire past Navas.

Celtic moved ahead in the tie for the first time through Griffiths. Roberts picked out the Scottish striker on the edge of the box and he sent a fierce strike into the bottom corner.

The on-loan Manchester City winger soon made it 3-0 as he played a one-two with McGregor before curling a shot beyond the diving Navas and in to the opposite corner.

An improved Lincoln side emerged from the break and their positive approach almost immediately paid off.

Erik Sviatchenko misjudged a long ball over the top allowing Lee Casciaro through on goal but the goalscoring hero of the first leg could only stretch to prod his effort wide of Craig Gordon's goal.

The second half lacked the tempo of the first but Lincoln had 'keeper Navas to thank for keeping the score respectable as he made a string of saves to deny Griffiths, McGregor and new signing Moussa Dembele.