Leigh Griffiths netted a crucial late equaliser to earn Celtic a 1-1 draw against Astana in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie in Kazakhstan.
The Scottish champions had already struggled in the previous round, losing the away leg against Lincoln Red Imps 1-0 before turning things around in the return and they had difficulties once more.
Astana’s Yuri Logvinenko gave the home side the lead in the first half and they could easily have added a second had it not been for some great goalkeeping from Craig Gordon.
Celtic fought back after the interval, though, and eventually got the away goal they wanted with 12 minutes remaining when Griffiths found the net with their first shot on target.
Astana were firmly in charge in the first half and were ahead in the 19th minute when Logvinenko headed home Patrick Twumasi’s corner from the right.
The hosts were by no means content with their one-goal lead, though, and kept on pushing for more.
Azat Nurgaliev forced Gordon into a smart save at the half-hour mark, while the Celtic goalkeeper again showed his class five minutes later to deny Junior Kabananga.
Brendan Rodgers’ men made an encouraging start to the second half and looked dangerous through Kieran Tierney and Callum McGregor, without really troubling shot stopper Nenad Eric.
Astana came close to doubling their lead when Nurgaliev hit the crossbar with a powerful shot from 20 yards out after some good work from Abzal Beisebekov down the right.
But Griffiths netted a valuable equaliser for Celtic, curling a shot into the far corner from just inside the area after some fine work from Patrick Roberts to ensure the tie is hanging in the balance as it heads back to Glasgow.
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