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Ronny Delia confident of Celtic's European progress after shut-out

By Ronnie Esplin

Ronny Deila believes a clean sheet could be the key to Champions League progress after Dedryck Boyata's late header gave Celtic a narrow victory over Qarabag at Parkhead.

The home side were far from their best in the first leg of the third round qualifier against the Azerbaijan champions who looked neat and tidy without bothering the Hoops' goal too much.

It looked as if Qarabag would get away with a goalless draw until the 82nd minute when former Manchester City defender Boyata, recruited in the summer, headed in a corner from substitute Kris Commons.

Looking ahead to the return game in Baku next Wednesday night, Deila pointed out his team's defensive strengths and the belief he has in them to make their way into the play-off.

Deila said: "It is hard to say if 1-0 will be enough. The game is not won yet. It was an even game.

"We had more chances than them, if they had one.

"I am very happy that we didn't concede anything, we met a very good team who are hard to play against so of course it makes it easier. It is vital.

"We are in a good position. If we score then they need three and that is a positive. First of all we need a team over there. I think player for player we are a stronger team.

"I believe in my players. I think we are individually good and have strong qualities.

"We have speed in the team and hard working players in midfield and strong in defence. The two central defenders are class.

"They are also a good team, they have had the same coach for seven years working in the same system. They are relaxed and concentrated so we need to put together a very good team performance if we are going to get through.

"We have a good chance with 1-0."

Qarabag boss Gurban Gurbanov congratulated Deila and Celtic on their win but expects his side to have the advantage in front of their own fans next week.

He said: "We knew we were going to play against a good team and that it would be difficult here and 1-0 is good for Celtic.

"It was exciting to play here in front of so many supporters.

"But it will be interesting in the return game in front of so many of our fans. We have great supporters, like Celtic, and of course they are going to help us."

Deila's men had beaten Icelandic part-timers Stjarnan 6-1 on aggregate in their previous qualifier but Qarabag delivered on their promise to be a much tougher obstacle.

Hoops fans, though, were boosted beforehand by the news that keeper Craig Gordon had extended his contract until 2018.

Commons came on for Nadir Ciftci with 10 minutes remaining and, when he whipped in a corner from the right, Boyata, who scored in the previous round at home to Stjarnan, rose high to bullet his header past keeeper Ibrahim Sehic.

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, van Dijk, Izaguirre, Biton (Griffiths 69), Brown, Armstrong (Forrest 62), Johansen, Mackay-Steven,Ciftci (Commons 80). Subs not used: Bailly, Ambrose,Rogic, Janko.

Booked: Izaguirre, van Dijk, Forrest.

Goals: Boyata 82.

FK Karabakh: Sehic, Gurbanov, Guseynov, Sadygov, Agolli, El Jadeyaoui (Poepon 87), Almeida de Oliveira, Garayev, Quintana (Diniyev 82), Tagiyev (Mammadov 73), Reynaldo. Subs not used: Veliyev,Vuqar Mustafayev,Salahi,Yunuszada.

Booked: Agolli.

Referee: Robert Schorgenhofer (Austria).

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