Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Dinamo Moscow 0 Celtic 2

(Celtic win 2-1 on aggregate)

Tony Mowbray

Celtic created history in the most dramatic fashion as they overcame a first-leg deficit to battle past Dinamo Moscow in their Champions League third qualifier.

The Hoops had never won a European tie after losing the first game at Parkhead but Scott McDonald's header a minute from the break in the Arena Khimki levelled the tie 1-1 on aggregate.

The game looked to be heading for extra-time but in the final minute a sensational goal by substitute Georgios Samaras, on for McDonald, sent the Parkhead side into the Champions League play-offs and ended a six-year drought on their European travels.

The Parkhead side should also give an extra bonus to Andreas Hinkel, as the German defender made both goals and knocked two Dinamo efforts off the line in a pulsating night in Russia.

When the draw is made on Friday, Celtic will be in the hat with names such as Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Stuttgart, Lyon and Fiorentina, and it is a place they richly deserve.

Dinamo's borrowed 18,000-capacity stadium was well short of capacity with only a couple of hundred Celtic fans in the stadium.

Danny Fox made his European debut for Celtic as replacement for Lee Naylor while Massimo Donati was given the nod over fit-again Scott Brown.

The first half went the way boss Tony Mowbray had predicted with Celtic having plenty of the ball.

But in the ninth minute it was Dinamo striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov who tested Artur Boruc with a curling effort from the edge of the box that the Hoops keeper gathered with ease.

Celtic continued to pass with confidence, winning a couple of corners in quick succession, albeit with no threat to the Dinamo goal.

The Parkhead side's first real attempt on goal, in fact, did not arrive until the 26th minute when midfielder Shaun Maloney tried to power in a drive from 30 yards but watched it skip harmlessly through to Vladimir Gabulov in the Dinamo goal.

The home side seemed content to sit in and look for the break, very much the way they had approached the first game in Glasgow, and at times a better pass or better vision may have caused Celtic problems.

But the visitors eventually got their rewards a minute from the break when striker Marc-Antoine Fortune, relatively anonymous thus far, knocked the ball back to Hinkel on the right.

He curled a high ball to the back post and the unmarked McDonald headed past Gabulov for the simplest but most important of goals.

There was still time for Hinkel to clear an effort from Dinamo skipper Dmitri Khokhlov off the line as the home side responded but it was a deserved interval lead Celtic took into the break.

It was a charged-up Celtic side who came out after the break determined to add to their lead.

However, a moment of slackness in the visiting defence after 52 minutes, when they failed to deal with a Khokhlov cross, allowed Dmitry Kombarov space at the back post.

The Dinamo midfielder struck his left-footed shot with decent power but it sped a yard past Boruc's left-hand post.

Then, as Dinamo stepped up the pace, Dmitry Kombarov's corner from the right was headed goalwards by twin brother Kirill Kombarov but, although Boruc was beaten down to his right, Hinkel again was on the line to clear.

As the tension mounted, the Parkhead men refused to sit on their lead and in the 62nd minute McDonald almost grabbed a second when he drove inches wide of the far past from 20 yards.

Brown came on for Fortune in the 68th minute to support McDonald from the midfield but there was a hint of extra-time about proceedings as time slipped away.

But with Brown driving Celtic forward, the Hoops went for the second goal and Maloney should have scored two minutes from the end when he was sent through by the Scotland midfielder but Gabulov brilliantly blocked.

Then in the final minute, Samaras took a long, searching Hinkel pass inside the box, weaved past three Dinamo defenders and slotted past Gabulov, before taking the acclaim of the small band of happy Hoops fans.

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