It was far from a classic Celtic performance on Friday when they bested part-time Northern Irish champion Linfield in Belfast, but that will do just fine by the Hoops.
After falling 1-0 in a similar position last season in Gibraltar, the Bhoys were none too keen to repeat those mistakes. Playing against a side that feared for the worst and sat back in defense throughout, Celtic still yet came out with two away goals and took a massive step to the third qualifying round as a result.
They didn’t do it the way you’d have expected, though, with both goals coming via set pieces. The first came from Scott Sinclair after a ball was chipped back into the area after Linfield half-cleared the ball. Sinclair didn’t make the greatest of contact, but he’d given his side the lead only to later see his goal given as a Mark Haughey own goal in the 17th minute.
Following that, Celtic would double their advantage five minutes later off a training ground routine. The corner was swung in and Tom Rogic made no mistake with a solidly hit strike that rippled into the back of the net.
From there, the Hoops just couldn’t find another goal. Linfield goalkeeper Roy Carroll had a memorable performance, saving a number of efforts on goal, to keep things respectable.
For stretches, Celtic held the ball for two and three minutes at a time as Linfield’s entire side camped inside the last 25 yards of the pitch. It was a training ground exercise in truth, and Celtic will be happy that it is over and done with now and they’ll be on their way to the third round.