Scott Sinclair

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Celtic qualify for UEFA Champions League group stage

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Celtic survived a scare in Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second season on the trot.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Brendan Rodgers‘ side beat FC Astana 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff last week at Celtic Park but the trip to Kazakhstan proved much trickier with Astana leading 4-1 late in the game which had pulled the score back to 6-4 on aggregate.

However, Scott Sinclair had scored a priceless away goal to make it 1-1 at half time and despite a late flurry of goals for the hosts Olivier Ntcham scored a deflected effort and Leigh Griffiths wrapped things up late on as Celtic lost 4-3 on the night but went through 8-4 on aggregate.

Last season the Scottish champions went out in the UCL group stage after being drawn with Manchester City, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time around.

UCL wrap: Napoli, Celtic win big; Nwakaeme volleys beauty (video)

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A day after three of five road sides felt good with their work in first legs of the UEFA Champions League playoff round, it was the hosts time to celebrate good results.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s UCL first legs ]

Home sides in Italy, Scotland, Greece, and Israel posted wins. Spanish side Sevilla did manage a road win.

Napoli 2-0 Nice

Chances and even possession was at a premium for the visitors, and Napoli found its breakthrough from one of the more overlooked gems in the world. Dries Mertens scored in the first half, his sixth career UCL goal, and Jorginho converted a second half penalty to give Napoli a foot in the group stage.

Adding insult was a pair of red cards in the 80th minute, the first to Vincent Koziello for a dangerous tackle (it was a harsh call) and Alassane Plea was given a second yellow for protesting the sending off.

Mertens’ goal was smooth as silk:

Celtic 5-0 Astana

A pair of Scott Sinclair goals joined an Astana own goal as the Bhoys went a long way towards avoiding the tight tie that made the last round tricky.

Olympiacos 2-1 Rijeka

Heber gave the visitors a halftime lead in the 42nd minute, but Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe equalized in the 66th minute to minimize the damage for Olympiacos, who would go on to win.

Istanbul Basaksehir 1-2 Sevilla

Remember Eljero Elia? The Dutchman’s on his eighth club and third since leaving Southampton after just a half season, but he’s given his Turkish side hope against mighty Sevilla after Sergio Escudero gave the Spanish side an early lead and Wissam Ben Yedder nabbed the winner.

Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-1 Maribor

Goals from Anthony Nwakaeme and Shir Tzedek boosted the Israeli hosts to a come-from-behind win.

In the case of the former, it was a beauty:

UEFA Champions League: Celtic, Legia Warsaw advance

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We’re one round of matches away from finding out who will face Liverpool, Sevilla, Napoli, Hoffenheim, and Sporting CP in the playoff round of the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League.

The second qualifying round finished Wednesday, with Celtic among the sides advancing to the third round.

The unbeaten Scottish champions battered Linfield 4-0 to win 6-0 on aggregate, with Scott Sinclair scoring twice in the second leg.

[ MORE: Where does Morata rank in PL? ]

Joining Celtic in the second qualifying round is Legia Warsaw, who cruised 9-0 on aggregate over Finland’s IFK Mariehamm.

Familiar UCL names BATE Borisov, Copenhagen, and APOEL Nicosia also won, while Sweden’s Malmo was bounced by Macedonian side Vardar.

Third qualifying round
Nice vs. Ajax
Club Brugge vs. Istanbul Basaksehir
AEK Athens vs. CSKA Moscow
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Young Boys
Steaua Bucuresti vs. Viktoria Plzen
Slavia Parague vs. BATE Borisov
Astana vs. Legia Warsaw
Maribor vs. FH
Copenhagen vs. Vardar
Celtic vs. Rosenborg
Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Vittorul Costanta vs. APOEL Nicosia
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Rijeka
Qarabag vs. Sheriff Tiraspol
Partizan Belgrade vs. Olympiacos

Celtic beats Hearts to secure Scottish league title

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A hat-trick by former Manchester City winger Scott Sinclair has given Celtic a 5-0 win over rivals Hearts, and in the process securing a sixth straight Scottish League title, one that was never truly in doubt.

Celtic’s win moved them a massive 22 points ahead of second-placed Aberdeen, meaning they are mathematically secure.

It has been, by all accounts, a successful season for the Scottish club. Brendan Rodgers‘ squad made the group stage of the Champions League, and although they finished winless in a very difficult group, they were pesky enough to earn three draws, including two against Manchester City. They have dropped just four points all season in league play and currently own a league goal differential of +58 with still eight matches to go. They plucked 20-year-old striker Moussa Dembele from Fulham for free, and pushed him to 17 league goals and 32 overall this season.

“My job when I came in was to win it in the best way we possibly could,” said Rodgers after the game. “We have had many outstanding performances but we have only just begun because there’s still an awful lot of development in this team. That’s the real exciting part.”

Watch: Scott Sinclair nets stunning curler in Celtic victory

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Celtic is enjoying another fine campaign in Scotland, and much of the team’s success can be attributed to the play of Scott Sinclair.

[ MORE: Burkina Faso, Cameroon progress at AFCON 2017 ]

The Englishman was at it again on Sunday during Celtic’s 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Albion Rovers when the 27-year-old curled an absolutely sublime effort into the top corner for the game’s opening goal.

The finish, Sinclair’s 13th of the season in all competitions, came after the winger picked up the ball on the left side of the Albion penalty area. Sinclair then proceeded to slot his dipping shot just under the bar and into the far post.

Celtic now moves on to the fifth round of this season’s tournament, joining the likes of Rangers and Aberdeen. In addition to the team’s success in the competition, the Bhoys have yet to lose a match in the Scottish Premier League this campaign (19 W, 1 D).