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Champions League qualifying: Celtic stand firm in Baku to progress

A stout defensive performance in the stifling heat of Baku on Wednesday saw Celtic secure a 0-0 draw with Qarabag as they won their Champions League third qualifying round tie 1-0 on aggregate.

Champions League qualifying: Celtic stand firm in Baku to progress

Paris: A stout defensive performance in the stifling heat of Baku on Wednesday saw Celtic secure a 0-0 draw with Qarabag as they won their Champions League third qualifying round tie 1-0 on aggregate.

Dedryck Boyata`s late goal in the first leg at Celtic Park a week ago ultimately proved the difference between the teams as Ronny Deila`s side denied the champions of Azerbaijan to progress to the play-offs.

The Scottish champions, who lost to Maribor of Slovenia in the play-offs a year ago, will find out on Friday who they will face in the final round before the group phase.

They will be seeded for the draw, and could face Swedish champions Malmo, who were in the group stage last season, 1966 European Cup finalists Partizan Belgrade, Maccabi Tel Aviv of Israel, Skenderbeu of Albania or Astana of Kazakhstan.

"I`m very relieved, I`m happy," Deila told BT Sport. "It was a very hard match and I`m very proud of the boys.

"The team effort was unbelievable and they defended very well. They hardly had a chance. Offensively we have to do better but now I don`t want to think about that."

Qarabag beat eventual runners-up Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and held Inter Milan and Saint-Etienne in last season`s Europa League and Deila added: "We met a very good team today who had some good results last year, but of course we have things to learn.

"We are developing all the time and we need games like this to become a better team."

It was by no means a vintage display from the Hoops, although they were not helped by temperatures that hovered around 30 degrees celsius even when the game kicked off at 9:30 pm local time in the Azerbaijani capital.

In attack, the decision to select Nadir Ciftci as a lone striker and leave Leigh Griffiths on the bench did not really pay off, with the former Dundee United player looking isolated throughout.

However, Qarabag rarely looked like breaking down a firm Celtic defence which was expertly marshalled by Virgil van Dijk and superbly protected by captain Scott Brown and Nir Biton.

In front of a 30,000 crowd, the closest the hosts came to scoring was when the Brazilian Richard Almeida had a shot saved by Craig Gordon flying to his right half an hour in.

Gordon made a comfortable save to deny Alharbi El Jadeyaoui in the second period while Stuart Armstrong shot just over at the other end.Elsewhere, Shakhtar Donetsk eliminated ambitious Fenerbahce in a heavyweight tie in Ukraine, following a 0-0 draw last week by winning 3-0 in Lviv as Olexandr Gladkiy and Alex Teixeira netted either side of a Darijo Srna penalty.

Fenerbahce, who have invested heavily to sign the likes of Robin van Persie, Nani and Simon Kjaer this summer, will have to settle for a spot in the Europa League play-offs.

CSKA Moscow also won through to the play-offs with a thrilling 3-2 victory away to Sparta Prague in the Czech capital.

Sparta drew 2-2 in last week`s first leg in Russia and looked set to win the tie when Ladislav Krejci and Kehinde Fatai put them 2-0 up on the night in Prague.

However, two goals either side of the interval from the Nigerian Ahmed Musa levelled the tie again before Sparta had Marek Matejovsky sent off in the 64th minute.

CSKA then took advantage of the extra man as Alan Dzagoev struck the winner.

They are possible opponents in the play-offs for Manchester United, who could also face Lazio, Monaco, Rapid Vienna or Club Brugge, the Belgians who beat Panathinaikos 3-0 to progress 4-2 on aggregate.

Elsewhere, Astana beat HJK Helsinki 4-3 to advance after the first leg ended 0-0.

However, the Finns looked certain to go through on away goals until a stoppage-time strike by Evgeni Postnikov left the visitors shattered.

BATE, Basel, Partizan, Skenderbeu and Maccabi Tel Aviv also won on Wednesday while Malmo beat Salzburg 3-0 to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit.

Monaco, Dinamo Zagreb and APOEL all won through to the play-offs on Tuesday along with Rapid, who claimed a surprise victory against Ajax.

From Zee News

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