Scott Sinclair

photo by Vagelis Georgariou/Action Plus via Getty Images

Champions League wrap: Celtic, HJK take decided advantages

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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

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

Cesare Abbate/ANSA Via AP
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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

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
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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

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).

Transfer window by the numbers: The Premier League breaks its records

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The long international nightmare of whether your favorite club will or will not do transfer business is over, and this one had plenty of firepower.

Hundreds of players were involved in millions of dollars worth of business, and the numbers are a bit wild.

[ FOLLOW: Latest transfer news ]

The Premier League clubs spent the most money in a window at $1.33 billion, though that figure is a bit misleading considering some of the big buys exist between two PL clubs.

So if Liverpool sold Raheem Sterling to Man City for $75 million, but used almost $50 million on Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke. And the Villans sent a combined $5 million or so to West Brom and Man City for Joleon Lescott and Scott Sinclair.

Let’s dig into the approximate figures, at least in terms of the 20 Premier League clubs, including the controversial amount of players on loan from Chelsea.

Record breakers

  • Manchester City spent the single-most money of any team in the history of a transfer window, at around $241 million.
  • Six clubs broke their transfer record: Bournemouth, Man City, Watford, Crystal Palace, Stoke City, West Brom

Most transfer purchases in: Aston Villa and Manchester City (9)

Most transfers sales out: Tottenham Hotspur (10)

Least transfers purchases in: Arsenal (2)

Most loans out: Chelsea (28)

Most loans in: West Ham and Bournemouth (4)

Highest net spenders: Manchester City ($155 million)

Lowest net spenders: Southampton ($4.9 million)

Highest gross spending: Manchester City ($236 million)

Lowest gross spending: Norwich City ($15 million)

Highest gross sales: Manchester United ($72 million)

Lowest gross sales: Norwich City ($150,000)