GLASGOW: Scott Sinclair bagged a double as Celtic eased to a 4-0 win over Linfield in the second leg of their Champions League second round qualifier to seal a 6-0 aggregate victory.
The Hoops, who triumphed 2-0 in a fiery clash in Belfast last week where the match was overshadowed by sectarian fears, got off to the perfect start when Sinclair fired them into a fourth-minute lead.
A lack of clinical finishing meant it took until the 47th minute for Australian international Tom Rogic to double Celtic’s advantage over the Northern Ireland champions.
Sinclair added a third in the 55th minute before substitute Stuart Armstrong wrapped up the scoring in stoppage time to book their place in their third qualifying round where they will face Rosenborg. Celtic will host the Norwegian champions, who needed extra time to see off Dundalk, in Glasgow next Wednesday.
“Some of the football at this stage of the season was very good,” said Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.
“We were a bit wasteful in the first half but our intensity wore them down in the end.”
After nasty scenes marred the first leg in Belfast, the travelling Linfield fans were escorted into the ground under a heavy police escort, but their presence failed to inspire David Healy’s side, who had no answers to the dominance of their hosts.
Like the first leg, Sinclair opened the scoring. Olivier Ntcham, making his competitive debut following his summer switch from Manchester City, fired in a shot from outside the box which deflected perfectly into the path of the English winger who gleefully swept the ball into the net.
The signs looked ominous for Linfield as the Hoops pinned them in their own half with Moussa Dembele somehow slicing a half-volley wide from close range.
Former Man United ‘keeper Roy Carroll, so impressive in the first leg, then had to look sharp to keep out Dembele’s diving header before the Frenchman pulled a shot wide of the post when Rogic had sent him clean through on goal.
Rogic was then presented with a golden chance in first-half stoppage time but the Australian somehow clipped his effort wide from eight yards.
The Socceroo star didn’t have to wait long to make amends as he made it 2-0 just over a minute into the second half as he collected the ball with his back to goal before spinning round and drilling a low left-foot shot past Carroll and into the bottom corner.
Celtic shook off the rustiness they showed in front of goal in the first-half as Sinclair soon made it 3-0. Ntcham’s wayward pass took a kindly deflection off a Linfield defender into the path of the winger, who lifted his shot into the roof of the net.
Substitute Armstrong then applied the finishing touch after the ball broke to him off a tired defender following a mazy run from Rogic to seal the win.
Linfield boss Healy had no complaints. “Celtic are a good side with quality players and they came on and had a right go at us,” the former Rangers player said. — AFP