Europa League roundup: Celtic and Linfield win; Rangers draw in Poland | Football
Odsonne Edouard’s free-kick gave Celtic a two-goal cushion to take to Sweden in their Europa League play-off against AIK. The Frenchman curled home from 25 yards in the 73rd minute at Celtic Park to earn the Scottish champions a 2-0 first-leg triumph.
James Forrest had scored in his fifth consecutive game two minutes after the break as Celtic took a major step towards sealing a place in the group stage. The result was a much-welcome boost for manager Neil Lennon and a Celtic support still hurting from their Champions League defeat by Cluj last week.
Celtic controlled possession from the start although it took 15 minutes for them to start penetrating the visitors’ five-man defence. The first time they did, Edouard was flagged offside after slotting home following a one-two with Ryan Christie.
Celtic’s first-half chances came in a flurry. Mikey Johnston had a shot diverted just wide after Boli Bolingoli had created a glorious opening. Jullien soon had a header saved and Edouard was denied after turning and shooting from 25 yards.
Both sides had penalty shouts turned down, and the game turned fractious on and off the pitch towards the end of the first half with some of the noisy AIK supporters pushed back by stewards and police as they briefly made inroads towards the home fans.
Celtic started the second half with intent and several chances came and went before the crucial second came from one of several free-kicks Johnston won in quick succession after running at the Swedes. Edouard stepped up and curled into the top corner.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon hailed his side’s “great team performance” after the victory. “We played particularly well first half but second half we had real control and could have scored more. I have got to be delighted with that.
“Some of the football we played was great and we scored some fabulous goals. We still have a very important 90 minutes ahead of us and we can’t take anything for granted.”
Steven Gerrard called it right with his prediction that Rangers’ Europa League tussle with Legia Warsaw will go to the wire after his side were held to a goalless first-leg draw in Poland. Gerrard knew his side would be tested at the Polish Army Stadium by Aleksandar Vukovic’s men.
Sheyi Ojo came close to silencing the Legia faithful eight minutes in. Jon Flanagan won possession in an advanced area before James Tavernier threw over a delicious cross but the on-loan Liverpool youngster Ojo put his header the wrong side of the post.
The hosts’ response was instantaneous as Luquinhas cut in from the left to fire at goal, forcing Alan McGregor to parry the ball away from danger. Legia’s only other chance of the first half came on 31 minutes as Niko Katic went to ground but failed to stop Pawel Stolarski’s pass finding Cafu. Again McGregor stood firm.
Legia started strongly after the break, Luquinhas finding Valerian Gvilia in the box but the Georgian playmaker skied his effort.
Flanagan’s last-gasp tackle on Kulenovic then rescued the Scots at one end before goalkeeper Radoslaw Majecki bailed out the hosts at the other seconds later after Arfield put a fine pass in behind for Alfredo Morelos. Katic came close to handing Gerrard’s men an away goal but his header drifted over from a Steven Davis corner.
After the match Gerrard lamented Morelos’s miss: “The one big chance of the night has come to us and unfortunately we couldn’t take it. There’s a lot of things about the game that we’re very pleased about. I thought we stuck together in a very hostile atmosphere.
“The tie is in the balance but we’re going back to our place now so the atmosphere completely changes full circle.”
Shayne Lavery was the hero as Northern Ireland’s Linfield secured one of the best results in their history in the first leg of their Europa League play-off against Qarabag. The 20-year-old scored the second and third goals in a 3-2 victory, becoming the first Linfield player to score in three successive European games since Arthur Thomas 53 years ago.
Mark Stafford’s header changed the momentum five minutes before half-time, with Lavery putting Linfield ahead in added time before adding another midway through the second half. Former Everton forward Magaye Gueye pulled a second away goal back for the visitors with a penalty in the second minute of added time.
Former Norwich and Swansea midfielder Leroy Fer scored twice as Feyenoord beat Israeli side Hapoel Beer-Sheva 3-0, with Sam Larsson scoring the other in Rotterdam. PSV Eindhoven beat Apollon, from Cyprus, by the same score but fellow Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Royal Antwerp.
Former Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge’s new club Trabzonspor won 3-1 away to AEK, with ex-Leeds forward Caleb Ekuban scoring a hat-trick. FC Copenhagen beat Riga by the same scoreline, with former Middlesbrough midfielder Viktor Fischer opening the scoring.
Espanyol were 3-1 winners at home to Ukranians Zorya Luhansk while former Manchester United winger Zoran Tosic scored in Partizan Belgrade’s 2-1 win against Molde.