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Celtic 3 Malmo 2: Berget returns to haunt Celtic

Former Celtic man Jo Inge Berget came back to haunt the Scottish champions by scoring the stoppage-time goal that changed the complexion of their UEFA Champions League first leg play-off clash with Malmo.

Two goals from Leigh Griffiths and one from Nir Britton had the hosts 3-1 up and firmly in control before Berget netted his second goal of the night to leave the tie on a knife edge.

And Ronny Deila’s men will head into next week’s second leg at the Swedbank Stadion acutely aware that Malmo overcame a two-goal deficit to eliminate Salzburg in the last qualifying round. 

Responding to the urgings of a raucous home crowd, Celtic came tearing out of the blocks and found themselves two goals to the good within the opening 10 minutes.

The first came after neat approach work from Stuart Armstrong and Stefan Johansen split the Malmo defence, allowing Griffiths to calmly find the bottom corner of the net from just inside the box.

Wild celebrations in the stands ensued and they had barely subsided when Malmo goalkeeper Johan Wiland flapped at an inswinging Johansen corner and towering Israeli midfielder Bitton took full advantage to nod home.

And the tie could have been all but over after just 13 minutes of the first leg had Wiland not at least partially atoned for his earlier error by using his legs to keep out a goal-bound effort from the lively Johansen. 

The visitors went close to halving the deficit midway through the half with what was effectively their first attack, Craig Gordon forced to go full-length in order to push a low drive from Vladimir Rodic around the post.

But if Malmo were starting to function as an attacking force, they remained all at sea at the back and almost fell further behind when the in-form Armstrong cut in from the left and bent a right-footed shot that flashed centimetres wide of the far post with Wiland beaten.

And the home side were left to rue those first-half near-misses when Age Hareide’s side forced their way back into the tie seven minutes after the break.

Having caught Celtic on the break, Magnus Eikrem’s deep cross picked out former Parkhead loanee Berget and the Norway international thumped an unstoppable half-volley past Gordon.

Celtic’s fears of disappointing on the European stage once more looked to have been assuaged when Griffiths popped up to restore their two-goal advantage, though.

Anton Tinnerholm failed to clear James Forrest’s cross and Griffiths responded quickest to loop a header over the stranded Wiland.

It looked as though that would conclude a good night’s work for Deila’s side, but there was a sting in the tail in the 95th minute.

A corner from the left caused panic in the Celtic box, Felipe Carvalho nodded it down and Berget was on hand to fire into the roof of the net and set up an intriguing return leg in Sweden.

Wed 19 Aug, 2015
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