Celtic, Dynamo in good shape
Celtic took a giant step towards reaching the UEFA Champions League group stages for the first time in four years with a 2-0 win over Swedish side Helsingborg.
The Glasgow giants took command of this first leg play-off in large thanks to Georgios Samaras, who played a pivotal part in both goals. The 27-year-old Greece international set up the lightning-fast opener when crossing into the box for Kris Commons to volley home, then rose highest to nod in a corner from the right to seal the result 15 minutes from time.
Neil Lennon's men will now be looking to wrap up the tie in the second leg at Celtic Park on 29 August. If everything goes according to plan they will go through to the lucrative group stages of Europe's premier club competition, where they will be joined by the nine other victors of the play-off ties.
That could well include Dynamo Kyiv, 3-1 winners at Borussia Moenchengladbach, but French side Lille have plenty of work to do after a 1-0 defeat at FC Copenhagen. In other ties, Spartak Moscow enjoyed a 2-1 home win over Turkish visitors Fenerbahce while Swiss outfit FC Basel suffered a 2-1 loss to CFR Cluj of Romania.
In Germany, Dynamo Kiev put one foot in the group phase despite the hosts taking the lead. Goals by Kyiv's Taras Mikhalik, Andriy Yarmolenko and an own goal by Gladbach's Luuk de Jong left the hosts with a mountain to climb at Kiev's Olympic Stadium in next Wednesday's return leg.
Gladbach dominated the opening phase and took a deserved lead when Juan Arango's pass found Finland midfielder Alexander Ring in space deep in the penalty area and he fired home at the near post with 13 minutes gone. Dynamo drew level against the run of play when Ukraine defender Mikhalik fired in a shot from well outside the area which deflected off Gladbach captain Filip Daems on 28 minutes.
Kyiv's second goal eight minutes later came when Ukraine midfielder Denys Garmash split the home defence with striker Yarmolenko gratefully receiving the pass. But he still had plenty to do as he beat the Gladbach defence to fire home past Borussia goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to give the guests the lead.
With time almost up, striker de Jong's first goal for his new club, having joined from FC Twente, proved to be an own goal when the 21-year-old turned the ball into the Borussia net from a free-kick on 81 minutes.