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European glamour ties less likely for Cork City and Dundalk after first-leg success for Celtic and Ajax

Celtic and Ajax were victorious in their Champions League qualifier first legs on Wednesday night.

Image: Jeff Holmes

THE GLAMOUR TIES may well evade League of Ireland champions Cork City and Dundalk in the Europa League qualifiers after both Celtic and Ajax registered fairly emphatic home victories in their Champions League second-round qualifying ties.

Aggregate defeat for the Scottish and Dutch giants would mean a drop-down to Europe’s secondary competition and two-legged ties with City and Dundalk respectively (the Lilywhites will first have to overcome AEK Larnaca), but Rosenborg and Sturm Graz look the more likely candidates to land on Lee and Louth shores following Wednesday night’s first legs.

Norwegian champions Rosenborg, who sacked manager Kare Ingebrigtsen last week and replaced him with academy director Rini Coolen, took the lead on the quarter-hour mark thanks to an away goal by defender Birger Meling.

Cork City fans’ daydreams were dampened, however, by two goals from Celtic club-record signing Odsonne Edouard and one from his fellow Frenchman fellow Frenchman Olivier Ntcham which put Celtic into a commanding 3-1 lead ahead of the second leg in Trondheim.

Meling coolly slotted past Craig Gordon from 12 yards and the defender almost doubled his tally as the visitors started strongly.

Slowly, though, Celtic worked their way into the match and after Callum McGregor had tested Andre Hanse they levelled just before half-time.

Edouard ensured parity at the break with a composed finish after excellent work from Scott Sinclair on the left, the winger cutting in and laying it on a plate for the French striker.

Celtic’s second came a minute after the restart when Olivier Ntcham fired home from outside the penalty area, and when Edouard doubled his tally with a delicate chip victory was assured.

There was still time for Jack Hendry to hit the woodwork as Celtic finished with a flourish as Brendon Rodgers’ side secured a commanding lead heading to Norway next week.

AEK Athens lie in wait for the victors of this tie, with Celtic now favourites to seal a meeting with the Greek side and avoid a Europa League showdown across the Irish Sea.

Celtic v Rosenborg BK - UEFA Champions League - Second Qualifying Round - First Leg - Celtic Park Source: Jeff Holmes

Goals from Hakim Ziyech and Lasse Schoene in either half secured a 2-0 home win for Ajax over Sturm Graz, and it seems unlikely, now, that the Dutch footballing aristocrats will be dropping down to meet Dundalk should Stephen Kenny’s men overcome Larnaca in their Europa League second-round qualifier.

The Lilywhites host the Cypriots in their first leg at Oriel Park on Thursday night, with kick-off at 7:45pm.

Gavin Cooney
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Champions League second qualifying round, first-leg results:

BATE Borisov (BLR) 0 HJK Helsinki (FIN) 0
Kukes (ALB) 0 Qarabag (AZE) 0
Ludogorets (BUL) 0 Videoton (HUN) 0
Ajax (NED) 2 Sturm Graz (AUT) 0
Celtic (SCO) 3 Rosenborg (NOR) 1

(Tuesday)

FC Astana (KAZ) 2 Midtjylland (DEN) 1
CFR Cluj (ROU) 0 Malmo (SWE) 1
PAOK (GRE) 2 Basel (SUI) 1
Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) 5 Hapoel Beer Sheva (ISR) 0
Shkendija (MKD) 1 Sheriff Tiraspol (MDA) 0
Red Star Belgrade (SRB) 3 Suduva (LTU) 0
Legia Warsaw (POL) 0 Trnava (SVK) 2

- Omni

With reporting by Gavan Casey

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