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Celtic FC put themselves in a good position to return to the UEFA Champions League group stage by drawing with FC Spartak Moskva in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie at the stadium that will host this season's final.
The Scottish champions gained the initiative at the Luzhniki Stadium when Paul Hartley scored a vital away goal, and despite Roman Pavlyuchenko's first-half equaliser they will begin the second leg in Glasgow on 29 August as slight favourites.
Spartak gave an unexpected start to summer signing Welliton and the Brazilian made the most of the opportunity. Teasing the Celtic defence with his trickery, he almost set up an early goal for Pavlyuchenko: the striker's close-range effort being ruled offside. For all their dominance, however, Spartak did not trouble Celtic goalkeeper Mark Brown as the visitors worked hard to close them down.
After frustrating Spartak and their large support, Celtic then scored a priceless goal against the run of play on 21 minutes. At the scene of one of Scotland's most famous sporting triumphs – sprinter Alan Wells's Olympic gold in 1980 – Scott McDonald flicked the ball across with the outside of his left foot for Hartley to direct a powerful header past Stipe Pletikosa.
Unflustered, Spartak fought back and after Welliton had nodded the ball wide, Pavlyuchenko equalised using his head three minutes before the break. The forward managed to get in front of Scott Brown and even though his namesake Mark got a hand to the ball he could not prevent it from creeping inside the far post.
Buoyed by the goal, Spartak had chances to take the lead in the second half. They somehow failed to convert one after a corner caused havoc on 58 minutes and, seven minutes later, Pavlyuchenko had a downward header that bounced agonisingly over the top. When Welliton saw his late attempt brilliantly saved they knew it was not going to be their day.
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