Linfield 0-2 Celtic

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Scott Sinclair’s header gave Celtic an early lead at Windsor Park

Celtic are on course to clear their first hurdle in Champions League qualifying after beating Linfield 2-0.

Early goals by Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic put the Scottish Premiership winners in control but Linfield worked hard to limit the damage.

Sinclair headed in on 17 minutes with Rogic quickly following that with a first-time shot from a corner move.

The first leg was marred by a series of missile-throwing incidents which could bring Uefa punishment for Linfield.

The second leg of the second qualifying round match takes place in Glasgow on Wednesday, 19 July.

Linfield may well be content having restricted the damage to those two early goals, although they will be annoyed both were scored following corners.

The Northern Ireland double winners were largely restricted to half chances but their heads did not drop and they battled gamely in the second half.

Celtic dominate first half

The Scottish title winners for the last six seasons dominated the early possession against Linfield, managed by Northern Ireland’s record goal scorer David Healy who had a spell with Celtic’s Old Firm rivals Rangers.

The visitors got the breakthrough in the 17th minute thanks to a tame header by former Aston Villa man Sinclair.

After a corner went deep, James Forrest lobbed it into the goalmouth where Sinclair’s header deflected off Blues defender Chris Casement and the ball trundled over the line.

Five minutes later it was 2-0 thanks to a clearly rehearsed move from a corner. Rogic broke to meet the ball from Griffiths and cracked in a first-time left-foot finish from about 10 yards.

Visitors in cruise control

Celtic looked as if they had plenty in reserve and could have scored more if required, although home keeper Roy Carroll and his defence deserved great credit for keeping the visitors at bay in open play.

Brendan Rodgers, whose side won the Premiership by a remarkable 30 points after his first season in charge, will be satisfied to have that decent cushion ahead of the return match at Celtic Park.

Last year the Glasgow giants reached the lucrative 32-team group stages of the Champions League for the first time in three years.

Assuming they see off Linfield, they still face two more hurdles if they are to make it again.

They would face Rosenborg of Norway or Republic of Ireland champions Dundalk in the third qualifying round, with victory putting them into the play-off round in August.

Linfield face Uefa sanction over missiles

While Linfield players fought hard on the pitch, the club will probably face punishment over a number a missile-throwing incidents during the match.

As Celtic were celebrating their second goal, a projectile narrowly missed Griffiths.

Then in the second half as the same player prepared to take a corner, coins and glass rained down from a section of the south stand.

At that stage, Linfield chairman Roy McGivern went to that area, apparently to confront the troublemakers.

But his intervention failed to prevent a number of further incidents.

Linfield were hoping to earn around £1m in prize money, gate receipts, television revenue, advertising and merchandising from this match.

But they could face a fine, and possibly having to play behind closed doors, if disciplinary chiefs take action over the distasteful incidents.

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