Celtic progress to Champions League group stage despite second-leg loss
Celtic have secured their place in the Champions League group stage despite losing 4-3 to Astana in the playoff round.
The Bhoys won the first leg 5-0 but their place in the group stage looked in danger after a flurry of goals in the second half.
Patrick Twumasi could have opened the scoring in the 10th minute but his long-range shot went narrowly wide.
Callum McGregor’s shot was then saved by Astana goalkeeper Nenad Eric before the Astana defence cleared a cross after good work from James Forrest.
Astana took the lead in the 26th minute when Dmitri Shomko’s shot was sliced into the net by Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer.
It did not take long for Celtic to level. Scott Sinclair, who had forced a save from Eric moments before, cut in from the left before curling the ball into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Forrest should have put Celtic in front three minutes later but his diving header went wide from Kieran Tierney’s cross.
Craig Gordon was called into action before the break to stop Marin Anicic’s header.
A comedy of errors from Celtic captain Scott Brown allowed Astana to go 2-1 up shortly after the restart. Brown gave the ball away before heading a cross to Serikzhan Muzhikov who powered the ball into the roof of the net.
Twumasi pulled another goal back with their next attack. Another cross was not dealt with and the striker was left unmarked to head in.
Junior Kabananga should have scored Astana’s fourth but placed his shot wide from six yards.
Twumasi did add Astana’s fourth with 20 minutes remaining. He jinked past Nir Bitton then cut in to power the ball into the net from a tight angle.
Astana still needed three goals and continued to attack. Gordon tipped a shot over the bar and saved a powerful shot from the corner.
Olivier Ntcham finally broke Astana’s dominance, and secured Celtic’s place in the group stage, when he scored in the 80th minute. The midfielder’s shot from the edge of the area was helped into the net by a deflection.
Leigh Griffiths added Celtic’s third goal of the evening in stoppage time.
Celtic will be in pot three or four when the Champions League group stage draw is made on Friday.