Astana 4-3 Celtic (Aggregate 4-8): Brendan Rodgers' side reach Champions League group stage
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 23/08/17 8:37am
Celtic reached the group stages of Champions League for the second successive season but were given a real scare in Kazakhstan after a 4-3 defeat to Astana.
Leading 5-0 on aggregate after the first leg at Celtic Park last week, Brendan Rodgers' side might have thought the job was done at half-time with the two sides exchanging strikes through Kristoffer Ajer's own goal (26) and Scott Sinclair (34).
However, the visitors' night became uncomfortable thanks to two quick-fire goals Serikzhan Muzhikov (48) and Patrick Twumasi (49), who further extended his side's lead in the 69th minute with a brilliant solo effort.
Any fears Celtic, who lost a 42-match unbeaten run in all competitions, had of a dramatic Astana comeback were finally laid to rest thanks to strikes from Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths as Rodgers' men booked their place in Thursday's draw in Monaco.
Astana: Eric (6), Shitov (7), Anicic, Kleinheisler (5), Muzhikov (6), Tomasov (7), Maevski (6), Twumasi (9), Kabananga (7), Postnikov (7). Shomko (7).
Subs: Grahovac (6), Beysebekov (6), Tagybergen (6).'
Celtic: Gordon (7), Lustig (5), Ajer (6), Bitton (6), Tierney (7), Brown (6), Ntcham (6), Forrest (6), McGregor (6), Sinclair (7), Griffiths (6).
Subs: Rogic (6), Ralston (6), Armstrong (6).
Man of the match: Patrick Twumasi
Celtic started well at the Astana Arena and could have put the tie out of sight when Callum McGregor's pass released Sinclair, but the 28-year-old took too much time on the ball, allowing Yevgeny Postnikov to make a crucial intervention.
Astana, with nothing to lose, continually tried their luck from distance and they were eventually rewarded when Ajer turned Shomko's long-range effort past a wrong-footed Craig Gordon.
Sinclair, who saw another effort brilliantly blocked by Nenad Eric immediately after the goal, brought the visitors level nine minutes later, curling a superb effort into the far corner.
The hosts gave themselves a little bit of hope straight after the break with two goals in two minutes. First, Muzhikov poked the ball beyond Gordon from close range before Twumasi ghosted in between centre-backs Nir Bitton and Ajer to head home unopposed.
Brendan Rodgers made five changes to the Celtic side that beat Kilmarnock at the weekend. Sinclair, Griffiths, Ntcham, Bitton and Lustig all returned to the starting line-up with Ralston, Armstrong , Rogic and Miller all dropping down to the bench.
Celtic were rocking and Rodgers reacted by sending on Tom Rogic and Anthony Ralston for McGregor and James Forrest as he looked to steady the ship, but Astana extended their lead as Twumasi danced his way through the Celtic defence before beating Gordon at his near post.
Astana needed three goals in 20 minutes to pull off one of the greatest comeback in Champions League history and Twumasi saw his deflected shot tipped over by Gordon before the 23-year-old fired a glorious chance over the crossbar from 12 yards.
However, the tie was finally put to bed in the 80th minute by Ntcham, who rounded off a swift Celtic breakaway before Griffiths got himself on the scoresheet to reduce the deficit on the night and make sure of the Scottish champions' place in the group stage of the Champions League for the 10th time
Man of the Match - Patrick Twumasi
The 23-year-old was constant thorn in the side for the Celtic defence, who were running scared whenever he got the ball.
He gave his side the chance of an unlikely comeback with a second-half double but he should have had a hat-trick, firing high over the bar from close range at a crucial point in the match.
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For Celtic, attention now turns to the group stage draw which takes place in Monaco on Thursday, with the ceremony scheduled to start at 5pm.
Rodgers' side's next engagement on the field is back at Celtic Park against St Johnstone at 3pm on Saturday.
Tommy Wright's side currently sit second in the Scottish Premiership behind Celtic and like the Hoops have made a perfect start to the campaign, winning their first three matches.