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Celtic cruise into 3rd qualifying C1 round
Celtic strolled into the third qualifying round of the Champions League with a 2-0 win Tuesday over Cliftonville as they comfortably eased past the Northern Irish minnows 5-0 on aggregate. With so much at stake - UEFA earlier revealed Celtic made 30 million euros from their run to the final 16 of last season's competition - the Hoops fielded a strong side despite holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg in Belfast. After the visitors had withstood some early pressure the Cliftonville defence was finally breached in the 16th minute when Efe Ambrose headed the Scottish champions into the lead. Kris Commons and James Forrest then both came close to adding more as the Glasgow giants dominated the first half at Parkhead. The Belfast part-timers improved after the break but the Hoops made sure of the win when a Georgios Samaras header made it 2-0 in the 70th minute. Neil Lennon's side will need to overcome much tougher opposition in the form of Elfsborg for a place in the play-off round of Europe's elite competition. The Swedish champions, who won their second leg match against Latvians FC Daugave 4-0 to progress 11-1 on aggregate, will visit Celtic Park on July 31. At Parkhead, Celtic named the same 11 that started the match in Belfast with last season's top scorer Gary Hooper, subject of much transfer speculation, having to make do with a place on the bench after returning from injury. Celtic dominated possession from the start and it didn't take long for them to carve out their first chance when Mikel Lustig knocked a corner back across goal to Samaras but Conor Devlin made a smart one-handed save to stop his header. Moments later the same pair combined but this time the Greek striker's header lacked power and Devlin easily held his effort. A goal was inevitable and it arrived in the 16th minute. Lustig set up Anthony Stokes to cross into the six-yard box where Nigerian international Ambrose got in front of his marker to send a downward header bouncing into the net. Cliftonville tried to respond but Ciaran Caldwell couldn't get his header on target after being found in space in the box. The Northern Irish champions then had their best effort of the match when Marc Smyth fired Eamonn Seydak's corner towards goal but his shot was blocked by Ambrose just in front of the line. Despite their huge advantage Celtic showed no signs of easing up with Commons stinging the hands of Devlin with a long range strike before Forrest's fierce shot clipped the top of the bar. Cliftonville were afforded more possession at the start of the second half but it was Devlin who was first called into action to tip a Stokes sidefooted effort round the post. The Irish striker then somehow poked an effort wide of the post when one-on-one with the keeper before he came off to be replaced by Hooper. Australian international Tom Rogic, who replaced Beram Kayal, then saw his shot from the edge of the box deflected over the bar as Celtic continued to press. Samaras doubled Celtic's lead when he met a Commons cross from the left at the back post and had the simple task of nodding past Devlin from close range.
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