LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) – Former European champions Celtic will take three away goals into the return leg of their Champions League second round qualifier against Irish League champions Cliftonville after a comfortable 3-0 win on Wednesday.
Mikael Lustig and Georgios Samaras were on target in the first half for the Scottish champions while a late goal from James Forrest added the finishing touches to a dominant performance.
Norway’s Molde, Polish side Legia Warsaw and Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv also recorded away wins in their first leg ties, while Sweden’s Elfsborg Boras ran in seven goals to effectively book their place in the next round.
Celtic, who had lost four games and conceded 12 goals in an unsuccessful pre-season tour of Germany, took their part-time opponents seriously by naming a strong side.
Lustig headed them ahead after 25 minutes and Samaras doubled the advantage with a quick turn and powerful shot six minutes later.
Forrest rounded off the scoring with a right-footed effort that beat Cliftonville keeper Conor Devlin at his near post after 84 minutes.
Norwegian champions Molde won 1-0 away at Sligo Rovers thanks to a curling effort from the edge of the penalty area by Daniel Chima, while Elfsborg scored six second-half goals to complete a 7-1 win over Daugava Daugavpils from Latvia.
Barak Itzhaki and Gal Alberman were on target as Maccabi Tel Aviv won 2-0 at Hungarian side Gyor ETO, while Michal Kucharczyk, Marek Saganowski and Jakub Kosecki were the scorers for Legia Warsaw who won 3-1 at Welsh side The New Saints.
Elsewhere, Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade drew 1-1 at Armenian side Shirak Gyumri and Slovakia’s Slovan Bratislava beat Bulgarian team Ludogorets 2-1.
Azerbaijan’s Neftchi Baku drew 0-0 with Albania’s Skenderbeu and HJK Helsinki’s clash with Kalju Nomme was also goalless. (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Pritha Sarkar)