CELTIC REACHED THE group stages of the Champions League after a four year absence following a 2-0 win at home to Helsingborg on Wednesday that sealed a 4-0 aggregate qualifying round success.
A controversial first half effort from Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama’s goal two minutes from time helped Scottish champions Celtic, the first British club to win the then European Cup back in 1967, to a place in Thursday’s draw after they were roared on to victory by their Parkhead faithful.
Already 2-0 up from the first leg in Sweden, the Glasgow giants’ 30th minute opener Wednesday saw them get a big break from the match officials.
Scott Brown shot from outside the box came to striker Georgios Samaras, whose pass along the edge of the six-yard area fell to a suspiciously offside-looking Gary Hooper, who tapped in from close range.
Hooper glanced nervously across to the linesman but, despite furious protests from the visitors, no flag was raised and the goal stood.
But if there was an element of good fortune about the goal, it was no more than Celtic deserved for their attacking play.
Five minutes into the second half, Hoops keeper Fraser Forster, who made several important saves in the first leg, had to dive to his left to push a curling 25-yard free-kick from Jere Uronen round the post, with the home side surviving the ensuing corner.
At the other end, James Forrest struck a powerful shot against the post with impressive Helsinborgs keeper Par Hansson rooted to the spot.
Hansson then produced an excellent save from Brown to keep the Swedes in the match and, despite their side’s aggregate position, there was still an air of concern among the Celtic faithful.
But Neil Lennon’s men put the result beyond all doubt two minutes from time after an excellent double save by Hansson from Brown and substitute Tony Watt led to a corner.
Kris Commons’s inswinging centre was met by Victor Wanyama, rising high in the middle of the six-yard box to head the ball beyond Hansson, who had a right to expect more from his defenders, and into the corner of the net.
Elsewhere tonight, Everton have cruised into the third round of the English League Cup with a 5-0 thumping of Leyton Orient, including four first-half goals.
Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas was the star for Everton with two goals, while Leon Osman, Victor Anichebe and Magaye Gueye also scored in the comfortable win.
Champions League results in full:
Lille (FRA) 2 (Digne 43, De Melo 105) FC Copenhagen (DEN) 0
After extra time; Lille win 2-1 on aggregate
At Cluj-Napoca, Romania
CFR Cluj (ROM) 1 (Kapetanos 20) Basel (SUI) 0
CFR Cluj win 3-1 on aggregate
At Glasgow, Scotland
Celtic (SCO) 2 (Hooper 30, Wanyama 88) Helsingborg (SWE) 0
Celtic win 4-0 on aggregate
At Istanbul, Turkey
Fenerbahce (TUR) 1 (Sow 69) Spartak Moscow (RUS) 1 (Ari 6)
Spartak Moscow win 3-2 on aggregate
Dynamo Kiev (UKR) 1 (Ideye 88) Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) 2 (Khacheridi 70-og, Arango 78)
Dynamo Kiev win 4-3 on aggregate
At Udine, Italy
Udinese (ITA) 1 (Armero 25) Sporting Braga (POR) 1 (Ruben Micael 72)
2-2 on aggregate; Sporting Braga win 5-4 on penalties
At Ramat Gan, Israel
Hapoel Kiryat Shmona (ISR) 1 (Lencse 67) BATE Borisov (BLR) 1 (Pavlov 90+4)
BATE Borisov win 3-1 on aggregate
Anderlecht (BEL) 2 (Mbokani 81, Yakovenko 89) AEL Limassol (CYP) 0
Anderlecht win 3-2 on aggregate
At Maribor, Slovenia
Maribor (SLO) 0 Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) 1 (Tonel 12)
Dinamo Zagreb win 3-1 on aggregate
Panathinaikos (GRE) 0 Malaga (ESP) 0
Malaga win 2-0 on aggregate