Celtic 5 Astana 0: Sinclair double helps put Rodgers' men on brink of qualification

Celtic appear assured of a place in the Champions League group stages after a Scott Sinclair double helped to secure a comprehensive 5-0 win over Astana at Parkhead in the first leg of their play-off tie.

Scottish Footballer of the Year Sinclair had received criticism for a perceived slow start to the campaign, but he more than answered those critics with two goals on Wednesday to leave qualification looking like a mere formality. 

It took the hosts a little longer than they would have liked, but Celtic eventually broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute, with Evgeni Postnikov putting into his own net after fine play by Tom Rogic.

And they were cruising by half-time, as Sinclair capitalised on a defensive error to double Celtic's lead three minutes before the interval.

Astana initially responded well after the break as they went in search of a lifeline, but they were sliced open by Celtic on the break with an hour played – Sinclair getting his second, albeit in controversial circumstances.

Rodgers' side managed to maintain their concentration for the final stages, adding a fourth 11 minutes from the end through the impressive James Forrest.

And when Leigh Griffiths made it five with a strike that deflected off Igor Shitov and into the back of the net late on, passage to the group stage was surely assured, barring an enormous collapse in Kazakhstan next week.

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Celtic looked eager to settle any early nerves with a quick goal at the start and they went close in the third minute, as Griffiths' cross from the right wing dropped kindly for Sinclair and his first-time effort went agonisingly wide of the top-left corner.

Griffiths then went close himself a few moments later, heading past the right-hand post as Celtic showed their attacking intent.

Astana grew into the match, but Celtic managed to stifle them just after the half-hour mark by taking the lead.

Rogic charged into the right-hand side of the penalty area, squeezed between a couple of defenders and eventually saw his effort prodded into the goal by Postnikov.

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The centre-back then spurned a glorious chance at the other end shortly after, somehow heading Serikzhan Muzhikov's teasing cross wide.

And Sinclair made him pay, racing on to a miscued pass and slotting beyond Aleksandr Mokin just before the break.

The visitors looked better after the break and put Celtic under a bit more pressure, though Sinclair soon further eased the hosts' worries.

The forward linked well with Griffiths on the break, latching on to a pass in behind the Astana defence and finishing past the helpless Mokin.

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Astana were livid, insisting that play should have been halted in the build-up due to Rogic and Yuri Logvinenko clashing heads and needing medical attention.

Celtic were far from done, however. 

Forrest added their fourth in the 79th minute with a cool finish after more good play by Griffiths.

The striker was denied a deserved goal of his own right at the end, his left-footed effort deemed to be a Shitov own goal after taking a deflection on its way into the bottom-left corner.

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