• Champions League round-up

Celtic edge closer to group stage

ESPN staff
August 8, 2012 « London Olympics 2012 LIVE! | Chartbeat test »
Georgios Samaras scored five minutes from the end © Getty Images
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Celtic eased into the Champions League play-offs thanks to goals from Joe Ledley and Georgios Samaras in their third qualifier against HJK Helsinki at the Sonera Stadium.

The Wales international bundled Charlie Mulgrew's cross into the net the 66th minute before Samaras scored five minutes from the end to give the Scottish champions a 4-1 aggregate win and only their second away victory in Europe in 34 attempts.

Midfielder Victor Wanyama was red-carded in the second-half after picking up the second of two yellow cards but that did not take away from the Hoops' win, which could have been more convincing had skipper Scott Brown, who passed a fitness test on his hip complaint before the game, not missed an early sitter before Samaras passed up on a decent chance moments later.

However, manager Neil Lennon will be delighted to take one step closer to the lucrative group stages of European football's elite club competition.

Elsewhere, Motherwell's first foray into the Champions League ended in heartbreak after they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Panathinaikos at the Olympic Stadium in Athens in the third qualifying round.

Well headed into tonight's second leg as firm underdogs looking to overturn a two-goal deficit against their Greek opponents although they survived an early onslaught to go in goalless at the interval.

Yet Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Charalampos Mavrias, both of whom scored in the first leg, put the tie beyond any reasonable doubt after half-time before Ibrahim Sissoko sealed an emphatic victory.

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