Aug 20 (Reuters) – Shakhter Karagandy stayed firmly on course to become the first Kazakh side to reach the Champions League group stage with a 2-0 home win over Celtic in their playoff first leg on Tuesday.
Opportunist goals from strikers Andrei Finonchenko and Sergei Khizhnichenko, one in each half, gave Shakhter their upset victory over the Scottish champions.
Celtic made the brighter start in a jam-packed Astana Arena and their Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk had two headers cleared off the line in the opening minutes.
Roared on by their fans, Shakhter grabbed an 11th-minute lead when towering Bosnian defender Nikola Vasiljevic headed on a long throw for Finonchenko to poke into the net from three metres.
Celtic pressed forward as Kris Commons rattled the crossbar with a piledriver from 30 metres midway through the first half.
But the Scots, European champions in 1967, were again caught cold in the 77th minute, when a deflected Gediminas Vicius shot fell kindly for Khizhnichenko to head home from close range.
(Reporting by Zoran Milosavlevic in Belgrade; Editing by Rex Gowar)