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Maribor 1 Celtic 1: Deila's men back in the hunt

Ronny Deila is confident his Celtic side have proven that they are capable of overcoming Maribor to reach the Champions League group stages following their deserved 1-1 draw in the first leg of their play-off tie.

Callum McGregor turns to celebrate after firing Celtic into the lead after only six minutes last night. His away goal could prove critical ahead of the return leg next Tuesday. Picture: SNS
Callum McGregor turns to celebrate after firing Celtic into the lead after only six minutes last night. His away goal could prove critical ahead of the return leg next Tuesday. Picture: SNS

There was no doubt last night that the Scottish champions took advantage of their European reprieve.

Legia Warsaw had beaten Celtic 6-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round but were expelled from the competition by UEFA for fielding a player who should have been suspended in the second leg at Murrayfield, which left Deila's side facing Maribor instead.

Callum McGregor put the Glasgow side into the lead after just six minutes, only for his fourth goal in seven games to be swiftly cancelled out by Damjan Bohar.Celtic captain Charlie Mulgrew and defender Virgil van Dijk both came close before the interval and midfielder Stefan Johansen missed a chance to win the match in the second half.

However, Celtic are in the box seat going into the second leg at Celtic Park on Tuesday, albeit Deila acknowledged that their task in the return game might have been made a little easier.

"I am very pleased with the performance," said the Celtic manager. "The players were fantastic for 90 minutes today. We also created chances; 1-1 was a good result but we could have won the game. I think we have to be the more satisfied team. The away goal is vital; 1-1 is a much better result than 0-0.

"We learned a lesson in Legia. It was very early in the season and you try things but it is not just the system; they are fitter now and they know what is expected. It is getting better.

"Maribor are a very good team who are good on the counter attack but we were well organised and disciplined. They will be more dangerous away than at home but we have the advantage of Celtic Park. I have a good feeling we are going to reach it [group stages].

Johansen inadvertently blocked a header from Van Dijk on the line and spurned a chance later in the match, but Deila could still smile.

"He was the best defender for Maribor. It was a fantastic save," said Deila of the Celtic midfielder's intervention to deny Van Dijk from scoring. "I think he was very good; it was a good performance by him, he was working hard; he is a leader on the pitch and he is progressing all the time."

Ante Simundza, the Maribor manager, believes his side can also progress in Europe. "We wanted a positive result and got one," he said. "We're still in the tie. The result gives Celtic an advantage but we are satisfied."

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