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UEFA Champions League Qualifying Wrap: Celtic, Molde take first-leg leads

Scottish champions Celtic breezed past Cliftonville to put one foot in the third round of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.

Neil Lennon’s side had too much quality for the NIFL champions, as the first leg of their second-round qualifier finished 3-0 in Belfast on Wednesday.

Mikael Lustig scored from a Kris Commons corner to give the Glasgow outfit the lead, and their advantage was doubled before half-time by Georgios Samaras.

Cliftonville improved after the break but the visitors – who reached the first knockout phase of last season’s Champions League, where they were beaten by Italian champions Juventus – continued to apply most of the pressure.

And they were duly rewarded just six minutes from time as James Forrest ensured the tie should be a formality in the return fixture at Celtic Park on July 23.

Norwegian champions Molde will take a slender lead back to the Aker Stadion after they secured a 1-0 victory over Irish outfit Sligo Rovers.

In what was a tightly-contested game, the deadlock was broken just three minutes shy of the break through a Daniel Chima strike.

Sligo will have a tough task overturning the deficit, as they conjured up just one shot on target during the 90 minutes.

Swedish outfit Elfsborg ran riot against Daugava Daugavpils in a 7-1 triumph at the Boras Arena.

Incredibly, six of their seven goals came in the second period as only Marcus Rohden’s effort separated the two sides at the break.

But an own goal from Jurijs Sokolovs, followed by goals from Lars Nilsson, a second for Rohden and Mohamed Bangura put the game beyond doubt.

Ibrahim Babatunde scored a consolation for Daugavpils, but Viktor Claesson and Sebastian Holmen added late goals to complete the drubbing.

Elsewhere, Partizan pinched a 93rd-minute equaliser courtesy of defender Vladimir Volkov against Armenian outfit Shirak.

After squandering several chances in the first-half, the home side took the lead through midfielder Davit Hakobyan.

But Partizan left it late to seal a draw and make themselves favourite for the return leg.

The fixtures between HJK and Kalju and Neftci and Skenderbeu both finished goalless, while TNS suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Legia.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv earned a 2-0 away win against Gyor, and Slovan Bratislava earned a slender advantage with a 2-1 victory over Ludogorets.

Wed 17 July, 2013
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