- Scottish Wing King James Forrest puts Celtic into the Champions League Group stages on the 92nd minute
(Commons 45+1, Samaras 48, Forrest 90+2)
SHAKHTER KARAGANDY 0
CELTIC booked their place in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the second consecutive season in the most dramatic fashion, beating Shakhter Karagandy 3-0 at home.
The Hoops were trailing 2-0 from the first leg but a wonderful James Forrest winner two minutes into stoppage time added to Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras´ strikes on either side of half-time, and sent a packed Paradise into delirium.
Neil Lennon had made several changes to the side which drew with Inverness Caledonian Thistle at the weekend, with Commons, James Forrest, Georgios Samaras and Anthony Stokes joining the attack. Joe Ledley and Mikael Lustig were also named in the starting XI.
Celtic began positively, looking to turn around the two-goal deficit from the first whistle. And their opening effort came in the form of a Lustig header, but it was well saved from the Shakhter goalkeeper.
The onslaught on Shakhter´s goal continued, with Stokes rounding Aleksandr Mokin four minutes later. He was forced to the byline, though, and he couldn’t find Commons with his cutback into the crowded box.
The Irishman was persistent in the final third and met James Forrest´s cross on 12 minutes but his powerful header was well saved. Mokin came to Shakhter´s rescue again shortly after, punching clear Commons´ free-kick before the Kazakhstan champions worked their way into the game, for a brief spell, with three headers wide of target.
With Fraser Forster untroubled, the Hoops regained possession and strung together a wave of attacks. Forrest came close with a long-range curling effort on 42 minutes, but the best was saved for the brink of half-time.
Commons, picking up the ball 30 yards out, cut on to his left foot before rifling a formidable drive into the top corner, breaking the deadlock and putting Celtic into the lead going into the break.
- Commons made it 1-0 - Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk
And they picked up exactly where they left off, finding the net in emphatic fashion just three minutes after the restart. Lustig´s shot landed at Samaras´ feet, and he lifted it over Mokin to draw the tie level on aggregate.
- Samaras made it 2-2 on aggragate, Robin Hood eat your heart out - Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk
And Stokes had an opportunity to make it three on the hour mark when he met Forrest´s cross to the back post. He cracked his shot off the woodwork, though, and play switched to the opposite end of the pitch.
There was a moment of panic for the Hoops as Adam Matthews cleared a ball off the line, before the resulting throw-in saw Shakhter denied by the bar. And a tense spell followed, with Shakhter pushing forward, but good defending from the Hoops backline protected Forster and denied them another threat on target.
Forrest went on a solo run across the 18-yard box on 75 minutes, but couldn’t find an opening to unleash an effort. He was eventually closed down and forced to hit a low drive which Mokin collected with ease.
But after a tense half hour Celtic closed the match in the most dramatic style. The clock had ticked two minutes into stoppage time when Stokes dribbled into the box and crossed the ball for Forrest. The winger drilled his shot home, sparking mass celebration around Celtic Park.
- 3-0 and another £25M in the bank - Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk
And his strike was enough to seal Celtic´s place in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the second consecutive season.