Celtic hope for trouble free Linfield visit
Celtic will hope the focus is solely on football when the Scottish champions host Linfield in the return leg of their Champions League second round qualifier today. The Hoops have one foot in the next round following a 2-0 victory over the Northern Ireland title holders at Windsor Park thanks to first-half goals from Scott Sinclair and Australian international Tom Rogic. However, the first leg in Belfast was marred by nasty scenes with the Linfield fans - who are drawn from Northern Ireland’s Protestant community - giving a hostile reception to Celtic, who are historically seen as a Catholic side.
Their unruly behaviour during and after the game has led to UEFA charging David Healy’s side for objects being thrown from the crowd and a field invasion by supporters.
The Glasgow giants - who had a small pocket of supporters in the stadium after the club refused its official allocation - are also the subject of disciplinary action with Europe’s governing body charging them with improper conduct after they picked up more than five bookings. One of the players booked was Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths, who was the target of the home support on a number of occasions. The Scotland international was forced to remove objects from the field including coins and a bottle as he prepared to take a second half corner kick, earning himself a yellow card for time-wasting from Spanish referee Alejandro Hernandez - a booking described as bizarre by Celtic’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers.
Griffiths then sparked crowd disorder at the end of the game when he tied a Celtic scarf to a goal-post, with riot police deployed to stop a pitch invasion and the striker subsequently charged by UEFA for provoking spectators. Those scenes have led to Police Scotland issuing a statement urging fans to focus on the football as extra officers are drafted in to deal with the anticipated 1500 Linfield supporters who are making the trip to Glasgow. Despite the off-field issues, Celtic will be pleased to have registered a win in Belfast as they avoided a repeat of the embarrassment of the 1-0 defeat they suffered against Gibraltar minnows Lincoln Red Imps at the same stage of the competition last season.
The Hoops will now be keen to put on a show for their supporters as they attempt to seal their spot in the third round where they could face either Rosenborg or Irish champions Dundalk.
Irish winger Jonny Hayes knows Celtic who finished last season unbeaten domestically - will be overwhelming favourites to take a step closer to the lucrative group stages but insists they will be fully focused on finishing the job against Linfield. “Linfield will have to come and play and look for a goal or two so hopefully it might make for a more exciting game,” the summer signing from Aberdeen said. “We would maybe have liked another goal, but credit to Linfield they sat in and were well organised but we were definitely the happier side to have come away with a 2-0 win.” —AFP