By Alex O'Henley at Celtic Park
Celtic FC came within a goal of creating European football history as they defeated FC Artmedia Bratislava 4-0 in their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie in Glasgow.
The Scottish side needed to overturn a five-goal deficit after succumbing to their worst-ever European defeat in the first leg, but despite strikes from Alan Thompson, John Hartson, Stephen McManus and Craig Beattie, the Slovakian champions just held on to take their place in the third qualifying round. There they will play either FK Partizan or FC Sheriff.
Celtic needed an early goal and the first opportunity arrived on six minutes when Ross Wallace - one of three changes made by manager Gordon Strachan - fired over after John Hartson had laid the ball into his path. Artmedia seemed to weather the early storm, only to fall behind on 22 minutes after Ondrej Debnár pulled back Maciej Zurawski in the penalty area. Alan Thompson stepped up to confidently convert the penalty.
The Slovakian champions were almost presented with an equaliser nine minutes before the break when Paul Telfer was short with a back-pass, but goalkeeper Artur Boruc smothered the ball before Branislav Obzera could capitalise. Thompson almost doubled Celtic's advantage with a blistering 20-metre free-kick that Juraj Cobej managed to beat away to safety, but the goalkeeper was left helpless a minute before half-time when Hartson latched on to Wallace's header to drive the ball into the net.
Buoyed by their first-half performance, Celtic went looking for a third after the interval and it duly arrived on 54 minutes, Stephen McManus bundling the ball over the line after good work from substitute Shaun Maloney. The comeback was now well and truly on and Hartson almost made it four with an overhead kick that bounced off the crossbar to safety.
Artmedia introduced Pavol Stano as they tried to shore up their defence and Cobej needed to be at his best to deny Maloney and then touch a header from substitute Beattie on to the near post. But Beattie would not be denied and with eight minutes remaining the youngster rose to head Mohamed Camara's left-wing cross past Cobej for Celtic's fourth. Strachan threw on Jérémie Aliadière for the closing stages, but Celtic failed to find the goal that would have taken the tie into extra time.
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