Good afternoon all and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Champions League
qualifier between Linfield
, the first competitive match of the season for both teams. Team news incoming...
LINFIELD XI: Carroll, Lowry, Haughey, Stafford, Clarke, Casement, Waterworth, Mulgrew, Smyth, Quinn, Garrett
CELTIC XI: Gordon, Armstrong, Brown, Simunovic, Sinclair, Lustig, Griffiths, Tierney, Rogic, Forrest, Sviatchenko
Let's start with the home side, and there's a familiar face in goal - Roy Carroll
, who has previously played for Manchester United, Hull and West Ham, among other sides in England and earned 45 caps for Northern Ireland. He's still putting in a solid shift at the ripe old age of 39.
Jamie Mulgrew is a key player for the hosts, a midfielder who likes to dominate in the centre of the park and another full Northern Ireland international. It's also worth keeping an eye on Andrew Waterworth, who bagged a hattrick when Linfield defeated Coleraine to lift their domestic cup back in May.
Onto Celtic, and the big news for them is that skipper Scott Brown
has been fit to start in midfield. Leigh Griffiths will provide the goal threat as Moussa Dembele is being eased back into the fold following a spell on the sidelines. New signing Jonny Hayes
could make his competitive debut for the Hoops but will have to do so from the bench after being named among the substitutes.
No small amount of controversy surrounds this tie as Celtic declined to take up their ticket allocation, unable to guarantee fan safety since the game falls so close to the Orange Order parades. However, it has since been revealed that a section of Windsor Park WILL be open to travelling supporters and many have taken to Twitter to voice their disgust at the late notice.
Here's what Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers
had to say in the run-up to the game: "These type of games are never easy and they'll aim to make it difficult for us but we go into the game with the expectancy to win. Our focus is on doing a professional job."
© Getty Images
PREDICTION: Rodgers is right to be cautious given that Linfield powered to a league and cup double last term and have plenty of experience among their ranks, but last season's Scottish treble winners will have too much quality for their part-time opponents. My money is on the Hoops taking a 2-0 lead back to Glasgow.
A nice message of support from the Scottish FA has come in as kickoff approaches...
Looks like former Barnsley man Grant McCann is backing Linfield tonight, one of his other former clubs...
KICKOFF: Linfield get the match underway. Stay with is for live updates throughout the game!
Barely a minute on the clock and Celtic claim their first shot on goal through Stuart Armstrong, who goes for goal from almost 30 yards out, but his effort is straight at Roy Carroll
in the Linfield goal.
Carroll makes another easy claim as Leigh Griffiths attempts to test him with a header, which is tame. The Hoops applied some pressure there, with Tom Rogic bringing the ball forward from midfield and picking out the ever-dangerous Scott Sinclair
in the box.
Plenty of Linfield fans have shown up and they're keeping the noise level up, but their team is struggling to get on the ball. There's some scrappiness on the edge of the home side's box, with poor challenges flying in from both sets of players. The referee finally intervenes and awards a free kick to Linfield for a foul by Scott Brown
Celtic continue to press and are looking for a way through on the flanks after finding no space through the middle, but Linfield are holding their shape well. The longer they can hold out, the better chance they have of wearing the Hoops down and nicking something at the other end.
The winner of this tie could face Irish opposition in the shape of League of Ireland champions Dundalk. The other possibility is Norwegian outfit Rosenborg, who take an away goal into their second-leg clash with Dundalk following a 1-1 draw in the initial match.
Linfield boss David Healy
will be pleased with how these opening 15 minutes have gone. Celtic are pressing them through every channel, but it's been a disciplined performance from the Northern Irelanders, who keep throwing bodies back.
Celtic win their first corner of the match as Stuart Armstrong lets fly from 20 yards, his effort cannoning off Jamie Mulgrew and going behind...
GOAL! Linfield 0-1 Celtic (Scott Sinclair)
The visitors take the lead and it comes via a scrappy goal. The corner comes in from Armstrong and finds its way to James Forrest, who hoofs the ball back into the six-yard box where Scott Sinclair is lurking. He connects with the header, barely, and the ball bobbles beyond Roy Carroll and into the net. Unluckly, Linfield.
There's an encouraging moment for Linfield as they win two corners in quick succession. The second is swung in by Quinn, finding the head of Mark Haughey, who forces a save out of Craig Gordon in the Celtic goal. It wouldn't have counted as the flag was raised, but encouraging all the same.
GOAL! Linfield 0-2 Celtic (Tom Rogic)
Set pieces are clearly a problem for Linfield as they've just conceded from another corner. It was a move straight off the training ground by Celtic, with Leigh Griffiths playing the ball low and Australian international Tom Rogic on hand to take it on the half-volley, beating Roy Carroll at his near post.
Both of Celtic's goals are disappointing from a Linfield perspective. They've held their shape well and soaked up the pressure, but their marking was wanting for each of those corners. The hosts have just applied some pressure through Mark Stafford, who blazed Chris Casement's cross over from close range.
SAVE! Roy Carroll rolls back the years with a great save from point-blank range after Rogic put Sinclair through on goal. The Englishman shot first time, but the Linfield goalkeeper made himself big and deflected the ball behind for yet another corner for the visitors.
Another half-chance falls Celtic's way as Lustig plays a long ball over the top and Griffiths steals a yard on his marker to meet it with a glancing header. He fails to get much on it and Carroll makes a routine claim.
James Forrest is next to try his luck for Celtic, latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, cutting inside and attempting to beat Roy Carroll at his near post. The Linfield goalkeeper gets his bulk behind the shot and absorbs it without too much trouble.
After soaking up waves of pressure, Linfield attempt to stage a break through Paul Smyth, whose pace allows him to break into the final third, but Erik Sviatchenko steals the ball from him and the move breaks down.
GOOD SAVE! Scott Sinclair picks up possession on the edge of the box and unleashes a vicious strike. It's heading low, towards the bottom corner but Roy Carroll gets down well and meets the shot with a strong hand. Good stop from the veteran.
Linfield are starting to look tired now and their defending is becoming increasingly desperate. Matthew Clarke hoists the ball behind after tangling with James Forrest. The resulting Celtic corner is within an inch of being prodded home by Mikael Lustig.
Celtic are toying with the opposition now. The men in blue can't get a touch of the ball, the travelling support ironically cheering every successful pass. The Northern Irish champions need to get up in their faces.
HALF TIME: Linfield 0-2 Celtic
Celtic take a 2-0 lead into half time at Windsor Park following a professional showing against the Northern Irish champions.
Scott Sinclair netted the first, beating Roy Carroll with a scrappy header and Tom Rogic turned home the second following a corner routine straight from the training ground.
's side are more than good value for their two-goal lead as they've been utterly dominant. Linfield, however, have had an encouraging moment or two in front of goal, coming closest when Mark Stafford blazed the ball over from close range.
KICK OFF: We're back underway in Belfast, where neither side have opted to make any changes yet.
GOAL DISALLOWED! Leigh Griffiths smashes the ball home from inside the area after picking up Tom Rogic's through-ball, but his face becomes a mask of frustration when he spots the linesman's raised flag. It was the correct call from the official as the Celtic striker had clearly strayed a yard off.
There was almost an opening for Linfield there as Andy Waterworth was given too much space in the box. He takes a touche before attempting to pull the trigger, but a sea of Celtic bodies absorbs the shot. At the other end, Armstrong goes for goal with a curling effort from the edge of the box, forcing Carroll into another save.
Waterworth tangles with Erik Sviatchenko and wins a corner at the expense of the Celtic man. Linfield can't do anything with the set piece, but the hosts are actually taking the game to Celtic in the early stages of this second half. A third Hoops goal will surely kill them off, though.
SUBSTITUTION: Linfield are forced into a change, throwing on Jordan Stewart for Matthew Clarke as the latter has picked up what looks like a nasty gash.
The tempo has gone out of the game now as legs are starting to tire. Celtic aren't pressing quite so relentlessly and Linfield don't look like they have any kind of gameplan. It threatens to pick up when Forrest swings a cross into the centre of the area and Sinclair connects with a header, bundling the ball over.
Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon has some work to do when Quinn plays a dangerous ball into the penalty area. He comes charging off his line and punches the cross clear.
A great chance for the visitors to extend their lead goes begging as Kieran Tierney ventures forward along the flank, makes his way towards the box and plays a low cross right across the face of goal. It only needed a slight touch from one of his teammates but there were no takers.
Jordan Stewart goes on a good run wide on the left, but the move breaks down when he misplaces a simple pass and gifts Celtic a throw. At the other end, the Hoops almost find an opening when Armstrong picks out Sinclair with a great ball, but his teammate cannot keep it in play.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Leigh Griffiths makes way for Moussa Dembele and James Forrest comes off for Johnny Hayes, who is making his competitive debut for the Hoops.
CLOSE! Patient build-up play from Celtic sees the ball find its way to Hayes wide on the right. He flicks a cross in towards Rogic and the Aussie goes for goal, his effort bouncing just wide for a goalkick.
Celtic are stuck in second gear at the moment, but they don't need to up the intensity. They're looking comfortable at 2-0, but a scrappiness has found its way into the game. Scott Brown has just been booked for clattering into Andy Waterworth.
SAVE! Another top save from Roy Carroll denies Armstrong from inside the box. Hayes provided the cross which Dembele met with a knock-down so Armstrong could take it on the volley. The midfielder did everything right, but Carroll was equal to his powerful strike!
That's the closest Celtic have come in a somewhere underwhelming second half. Linfield have shown improvement and more attacking intent than in the first period, but not quite enough to make this a contest.
CHANCE! Linfield's best chance of the match has just come and gone as Stephen Lowry's low cross from wide on the right eluded Craig Gordon and pinballed its way around the six-yard box. It could easily have deflected in off Andy Waterworth, but the Hoops defence hastily clears its lines.
It's been a professional performance from Linfield, who have are still standing their ground in these closing stages. David Healy's side can head to Celtic Park with their heads held high in the second leg.
There will be four minutes of stoppage time to play at Windsor Park.
Lots of Celtic pressure in stoppage time plus a booking for Stuart Armstrong for dissent, but the final whistle is about to sound.
FULL TIME: Linfield 0-2 Celtic
Celtic's first competitive match of the new campaign ends in a 2-0 win for them. Many of their fans may have been expecting more goals against part-timers Linfield, but it was a professional showing from the Scottish champions.
Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic got their names on the scoresheet, but the Linfield players deserve plaudits for some of their resilient defending, and their veteran goalkeeper Roy Carroll was one of the best players on the pitch.
No doubt Celtic will finish the job at Parkhead next Wednesday, after which they'll face either Dundalk or Rosenborg in the next qualifying round.
And that's all from me tonight. Many thanks for following our live commentary,