Celtic coast through as Douglas stands firm

Celtic 1 FB Kaunas 0 Celtic win 5-0 on aggregate
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The Independent Football

Celtic went through all the formalities last night to book their place in the third qualifying round of the Champions' League, where they will face MTK Hungaria.

This contest had effectively been rendered irrelevant last week by virtue of Celtic's 4-0 win in Lithuania. Even the Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, did not join the 40,000 crowd at Parkhead, preferring to be in Finland to assess his next opponents before the trip to Budapest as the Hungarians eclipsed HJK Helsinki.

His players took their lead from that, delivering a low-key display that required an own-goal from the Kaunas defender Darius Gvildys to secure victory and a 5-0 aggregate.

The most astonishing statistic was the number of spectators who had come along to watch Celtic in such a meaningless contest. There were more than 40,000 seats filled by kick-off, though one of those was taken by the man who usually has the Parkhead crowd on its feet, Henrik Larsson.

The prolific striker, who had contributed a goal in the 4-0 romp in Lithuania a week earlier, was taking a rare evening off to protect a hamstring injury.

Celtic found it hard to generate any pace, dropping down to Kaunas's pedestrian level. Indeed Ricardas Beniuskis ought to have upset the script when Martin Opic's cross picked him out, but the Kaunas striker headed wide.

It took a huge slice of fortune to provide Celtic with the opening goal. Darius Gvildys was under no pressure when he rose to meet Jamie Smith's tame cross, but the Kaunas defender could not alter his direction and bulleted a header past his bemused goalkeeper Gytis Padimanskas.

Celtic's slackness allowed Opic the chance to equalise quickly, but Robert Douglas defied the midfielder after he burst clear, while Padimanskas produced a splendid save to push Chris Sutton's flick wide.

Celtic simply could not inject the necessary bite into their game, though Alan Thompson came close to snatching a second goal for them in the 55th minute with a shot from 20 yards that flew just wide.

However, they were grateful to Douglas for preserving the scoreline. Tadas Papeckys engineered a glorious opening when he exchanged passes with Opic, but the Celtic goalkeeper beat out the point-blank shot and the scare subsided.

Miller and Sutton worked a similar move before the end, but after Miller had danced to the byline his more vaunted colleague failed to follow up for what would have been a tap-in.

Celtic (3-5-2): Douglas; Valgaren, Balde, Mjallby; Sylla (Lennon, 58), Lambert, Miller, Thompson (Wallace, 81), Smith; Sutton, Maloney (Beattie, 58). Substitutes not used: Hedman, McNamara, Crainey, Kennedy.

FB Kaunas (3-5-2): Padimanskas; Kancelskis, Zelmikas, Gvildys; Gedgaudas, Barveicius, Petrenko, Regelskis, Papeckys (Poutkalis, 78); Beniuskis (Karalius, 35), Opic (Sanajevas, 87). Substitutes not used: Stonys, Sirmelis, Kunevicius, Sanajevas.

Referee: J Granat (Poland).

* Newcastle United will travel to Partizan Belgrade for the first leg of their Champions' League third qualifying round tie next Wednesday. Last night Partizan narrowly advanced after a 2-2 draw away to the Swedish club, Djugarden, going through on the away goals rule after the aggregate scores were level at 3-3

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