Scott Sinclair

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UCL Roundup: Celtic advances to second round

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Scottish Premier League champion Celtic advanced mostly with ease to the second round of UEFA Champions League qualifying.

In the first official home game of the season at Celtic Park, Celtic defeated FK Sarajevo, 2-1, advancing with a 5-2 aggregate victory. Manager Neil Lennon was able to rest some starters, including Craig Gordon, Scott Sinclair and Leigh Griffiths as Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor scored for the hosts.

A second half turnover led to a wide-open Benjamin Tatar in the box, who finished to tie the score at 1-1 on the night. McGregor’s 76th minute smash from 30-yards out gave Celtic the lead again, which it held on to for the rest of the game.

With the win, Celtic advances to face Nõmme Kalju of Estonia, with matches set to take place July 23/24 and July 30/31.

Here’s a roundup of other UCL first round qualifying second leg scores.


Riga FC 0-0 Dundalk (4-5 on penalty kicks)

AIK 3-1 Ararat

Qarabag 2-0 Partizani

Rosenborg 4-0 Linfield

Ludogorets 2-3 Ferencvaros

CFR Cluj 3-1 Astana

Piast Gliwice 1-2 BATE Borisov

Maribor 2-0 Valur

Sutjeska 1-1 Slovan Bratislava

Champions League wrap: Celtic, HJK take decided advantages

photo by Vagelis Georgariou/Action Plus via Getty Images
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The UEFA Champions League is back (sort of).

Teams that qualified for the qualification stage of the tournament took their next steps on this week with the first legs of the first qualifying round.

FK Sarajevo 1-3 Celtic

Celtic boss Neil Lennon was thrilled with the Bhoys first serious match of a new season.

“We had to fit a few square pegs in round holes because of where we are with the squad,” he said. “I thought [Kristoffer] Ajer was unbelievable at right back. Obviously that’s not a long-term thing.”

Mirko Oremus opened the scoring for the hosts in the 29th minute, but Celtic answered six minutes later through Michael Johnston. Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair finished off the scoring, and the visitors are in fine shape for the second leg in Glasgow.

HJK Helsinki 3-0 HB Toshavn

A 30th minute red card to Faith Friday Obilor wasn’t enough to short-circuit HJK’s chances. Leading 1-0 at the the time on Lassi Lappalainen’s first of two goals, the Finnish side eased into the second leg. Daniel O’Shaughnessy scored the other goal.

Tuesday results

Nomme Kalju 0-1 Shkendija
Suduva 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
Ararat-Armenia 2-1 AIK
Astana 1-0 CFR Cluj
F91 Dudelange 2-2 Valletta
New Saints 2-2 Feronikeli

Wednesday fixtures

Ferencvaros v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Partizani v. Qarabag
Slovan Bratislava v. Sutjeska Niksic
Sheriff Tiraspol v. Saburtalo Tbilisi
Linfield v. Rosenborg
Valur v. Maribor
Dundalk v. Riga FC
BATE Borisov v. Piast Gliwice

Europa League: Arsenal rolls, Chelsea cruises, Milan saves it late

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The Europa League group stage is nearing a finality, and while Premier League sides Arsenal and Chelsea had already confirmed safe passage to the knockout stage before Thursday’s matches, both had successful results.

Arsenal played in the early slate, with their game in Ukraine moved to Kiev from Poltava for safety concerns amid the tense political climate. The Gunners won 3-0 on a trio of first-half goals, with 18-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe opening the scoring just 10 minutes in. Many of Arsenal’s first-teamers, including Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, and others stayed home and did not make the trip. That gave teenagers like Smith-Rowe, Joseph Willock, and Eddie Nketiah an opportunity to start, with Smith-Rowe’s opener leading the way as Willock also found the back of the net. Aaron Ramsey scored as well, bagging a penalty after being clumsily fouled by Igor Perduta.

Chelsea, meanwhile, stayed at home to welcome Greek side PAOK to Stamford Bridge, and the Blues cruised 4-0 after the visitors went a man down just seven minutes in. 31-year-old Ukranian international Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off in the early stages of the match for a last-man foul, tackling Olivier Giroud just outside the box. It took 27 minutes before Chelsea was able to break through, but Giroud would get the first of his brace with a pinpoint left-footed strike. Giroud would hit again before halftime, before Callum Hudson-Odoi ripped the third for the Blues and substitute Alvaro Morata finished it off in the 78th minute.

Villarreal drew 0-0 with Scottish side Rangers to put them in pole position of a crowded Group G. Rangers striker Daniel Candeias was sent off just before halftime for a second yellow, leaving the hosts in a position of peril, but they held on the rest of the way. All teams came into the matchday within two points of each other, and after Thursday’s results the Spanish club sits atop the group with seven points, while Rapid Vienna is also on seven after beating Spartak Moscow 2-1 in Russia, but the Austrian club has a far worse goal differential.

AC Milan – this season’s cardiac pack – came back from 2-1 down to beat Luxembourg club F91 Dudelange 5-2. They drew level in the 66th minute on an own-goal, and then stormed by with a trio inside the final 20 minutes. Hakan Calhanaglou got the winner in the 70th minute, while Fabio Borini added one late with 10 minutes to go. Milan has not officially secured advancement to the knockout round in Group F, but would need to lose to Olympiakos by three or more goals on the final day to see the Italian side out.

Meanwhile, Olympiakos ended up on the outside looking in with a 1-0 loss at Real Betis, which sent the Spanish side officially through Group F. Sergio Canales scored his third goal in his last four matches across all competitions to put Betis into the knockout stages.

Bayer Leverkusen secured advancement to the knockout stage after Mitchell Weiser rescued a 1-1 draw with Ludogorets Razgrad with a ridiculous 85th minute goal. The 24-year-old German struck a bouncing right-footed volley from an incredibly tight angle that snuck in under the crossbar to put Leverkusen on 10 points with a match to go.

Sevilla had a chance to secure a place in the knockout stage with a win in Belgium, but they were stunned by Standard Liege 1-0 on a goal from 20-year-old Mali international Moussa Djenepo who struck in the 62nd minute. Six minutes later, Sevilla saw substitute Pablo Sarabia sent off for a second yellow, and while they still finished with 70% possession, the Spanish side could not find a breakthrough. That leaves Standard and Sevilla level on nine points, although Sevilla still holds a far superior goal differential.

A messy Group I got no clarity as Jermaine Lens gave Besiktas a 3-2 road win over Sarpsborg with a 90th minute goal, leaving the top three teams in the group all within a point headed into the final day. Genk and Malmo drew 2-2, leaving Genk atop the group with seven points and a better goal differential, while Besiktas sits at seven as well and Malmo is behind them at six, and Sarpsborg is still in the mix with five.

The goal of the day came from Apollon Limassol, as David Faupala stunned Italian side Lazio with a bicycle kick just past the half-hour mark in Cyprus. The home side eventually won 2-0, but Group H has already been decided, with the Italian club already into the knockout round.

Elsewhere, French side Marseille suffered a disappointing defeat in Germany at Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0. The visitors had already been eliminated from the competition before stepping on the field, but they saw Serbian striker Luka Jovic bring his good Bundesliga form to Europe, with the opener inside the first minute. It got worse for the French club when Luiz Gustavo was credited with an own-goal when he put a back-pass in his own net as goalkeeper Yohann Pele was in a haze outside his own post.

Red Bull Salzburg won the battle of the Red Bulls as they defeated RB Leipzig 1-0 in Austria. Fredrik Gulbrandsen had the game’s only goal in the 74th minute which confirmed Salzburg’s way through to the knockout round, and left the German side in a precarious position in Group B, three points and two goals back of second-placed Celtic. Speaking of the Scottish club, Brendan Rodgers saw former Manchester City winger Scott Sinclair score the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory for Celtic over Rosenborg in Norway.

Sporting CP put six past FK Qarabag in a 6-1 victory which included a brace from former Arenal midfielder Abou Diaby. Bas Dost opened the scoring just five minutes in, while former Manchester United veteran Nani also grabbed a goal 33 minutes in. The win officially saw Sporting qualify for the knockout stage behind Group E leaders Arsenal.

Dynamo Kiev beat Kazakhstani club Astana 1-0 to take control at the top of Group K, while Dinamo Zagreb played to a 0-0 draw with Turkish side Fenerbahce in a match between two teams that are already through into the knockout stage. Stade Rennes stayed in contention in Group K with a 1-0 road victory over Czech club FK Jablonec. French international Clement Grenier scored the lone goal in the 55th minute to pull Rennes within two of Astana.

FULL RESULTS:

Vorskla 0-3 Arsenal
Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 FC Copenhagen
AC Milan 5-2 F91 Dudelange
Rosenborg 0-1 Celtic
Real Betis 1-0 Olympiakos
FK Qarabag 1-6 Sporting CP
Standard Liege 1-0 Sevilla

Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Ludogorets Razgrad
FC Astana 0-1 Dynamo Kiev
Fenerbahce 0-0 Dinamo Zagreb
FC Zurich 1-2 AEK Larnaca
FC Salzburg 1-0 RB Leipzig
Bordeaux 2-0 Slavia Prague
BATE Borisov 2-0 Vidi
Anderlecht 0-0 FC Spartak Trnava
Krasnodar 2-1 Akhisar Belediyespor

Champions League wrap: Celtic bounced; Benfica, Ajax through

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
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We’re one round away from the group stage following a busy Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Ramos takes shots at Klopp ]

Some big names will not be there, as former champions Celtic failed to get a result in Greece and Fenerbahce could not find a way past Benfica.

Spartak Trnava 1-2 AET (2-3 agg.) Red Star Belgrade

Quite a game, this one.

To start, the second leg saw both sides match the first leg’s result after just seven minutes. The Slovakian hosts scored through Marek Bakos in the 6th minute, but were level when El Fardou Ben Nabouhane scored the next minute.

No goals came over the final 83 minutes, but Nemanja Radonjic bagged a goal for Red Star in the 98th minute to send the Serbians through to the playoff round.

AEK Athens 2-1 (3-2 agg.) Celtic

Brendan Rodgers men have failed to reach the group stage after slipping behind 2-0 in Greece and finding only a Scott Sinclair goal over the final 40 minutes.

Rodgers has publicly criticized the board’s recruitment of players, with some speculating his time could be short at Celtic Park.

But the boss of the top Glaswegian team says the loss wasn’t about the behind the scenes, just poor defending.

“We’ve got to stop the cross for the first and the second is poor defending. We gave ourselves a chance and threw everything at it. I thought a lot of our build-up play was worth something from the game but you can’t defend that softly. I still felt this was a game in which we had more than enough to win but you have to defend better than we did. We gave AEK a lot of problems but you have to defend properly and we didn’t do that.”

Celtic will need to beat the winner of the tie between Latvia’s Spartaks Jurmala and Lithuania’s Suduva Marijampole — Suduva leads 1-0 heading into Thursday’s second leg — for the right to play in the Europa League’s group stage. Those matches are Aug. 23 and 30.

Ajax 3-0 (5-2 agg.) Standard Liege

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag was not content with its two away goal lead, and crushed its Belgian visitors with goals from Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar, Matthijs de Ligt, and David Neres.

MOL Vidi 0-0 (1-1 agg.) Malmo

American midfielder Romain Gall sees his UCL campaign end, an 11-minute substitute performance not enough to help his Swedish visitors to a winner. MOL Vidi — long called Videoton — moves onto the playoff.

Elsewhere
Dynamo Kiev 2-0 (3-1 agg.) Slavia Prague
BATE Borisov 1-1 (2-1 agg.) Qarabag
Spartak Moscow 0-0 (2-3 agg.) PAOK Salonika
Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 (3-0 agg.) FC Astana
Fenerbahce 1-1 (1-2 agg.) Benfica
Shkendija 0-1 (0-4 agg.) RB Salzburg

Playoff round
BATE Borisov vs. PSV Eindhoven
Young Boys vs. Dinamo Zagreb
MOL Vidi vs. AEK Athens
Benfica vs. PAOK Salonika
Ajax vs. Dynamo Kyiv

UCL wrap: PSG batters Bayern Munich; Man Utd, Chelsea win (video)

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Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League group stage matches saw the Premier League finish the week with four wins and just one draw.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain had it easier than expected against Bayern Munich, while Barcelona found it trickier versus Sporting Lisbon.


Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea

David Luiz was whistled for a push inside the 18, and Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty to put the hosts ahead in Spain. But Eden Hazard set up Alvaro Morata for an equalizer and Michy Batshuayi scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to give Chelsea the honor being just the second team to win a UCL match at Atleti in the last two dozen attempts.

Basel 5-0 Benfica

Michael Lang and Dimitri Oberlin scored within the first 20 minutes as the Swiss hosts took control and a Benfica red card helped the score line get out of control.

CSKA Moscow 1-4 Manchester United

Romelu Lukaku scored twice and Anthony Martial had a goal and two assists as the Red Devils had a pretty east go in Russia. The fourth goal went to Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Anderlecht 0-3 Celtic

Leigh Griffiths bringing his Scottish form to Belgium with a 40th minute goal, and English exports Patrick Roberts and Scott Sinclair salted away the result with second half goals.

Sporting CP 0-1 Barcelona

Raise your hand if you thought it would take an own goal for Barca to claim three points down the road in Portugal.

Juventus 2-0 Olympiacos

The Greeks kept it close in Turin, but Gonzalo Higuain’s 69th minute goal sent Juve ahead and Mario Mandzukic finished the scoring 11 minutes later.

Paris Saint-Germain 3-0 Bayern Munich

Dani Alves scored in the second minute off a Neymar assist, then Kylian Mbappe cued up Edinson Cavani to give Les Parisiens some comfort. Neymar added a marker in the 63rd minute to call it a day on Carlo Ancelotti’s struggling visitors.

Qarabag 1-2 AS Roma

Qarabag put up a better fight against Roma than it did at Chelsea, but Kostas Manolas and Edin Dzeko has it 2-0 within 16 minutes.