Celtic FC gave themselves a big push towards the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup with a 3-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart at Celtic Park which owed a good deal to the early dismissal of Brazilian defender Marcelo Bordon.
Surprisingly after the 17th-minute red card that followed a foul on Stilian Petrov the German side gained the lead. Then Celtic took full control, sustained constant pressure on the Stuttgart goal, and scored three times to give themselves the advantage.
Bordon could have no complaints as the determined Stilian Petrov was striding clear of the last man with purpose. Having been so instrumental in that incident the same player then laid on Paul Lambert's equaliser before completing the scoring himself with a clever drive.
Stuttgart, riding high in the 1. Bundesliga and winners in four of their last five games, seemed to stun even themselves as they took the lead in the 26th minute. Following a free-kick, one of a succession in a physical first half, Krassimir Balakov lofted the ball towards the far post where Kevin Kuranyi rose to steer home a firm header.
That was a magnificent response to the crippling blow of the red card but with fellow striker Ioannis Amanatidis - impressive in the initial stages - having been sacrificed to allow for the introduction of defender Steffen Dangelmayr, Stuttgart were seldom able to threaten again as the hooped shirts established complete surpemacy.
Celtic were without prolific marksman Henrik Larsson and defender Johan Mjällby through injury and John Hartson because of suspension and then received another blow on the eve of the game when goalkeeper Magnus Hedman strained a thigh.
As events transpired those absentees did not prove as damaging as had been thought and replacement keeper Rab Douglas, who manager Martin O'Neill admitted was not 100 per cent fit, escaped a severe examination over his fitness. The equaliser followed in the 36th minute after Petrov chested the ball into the path of Paul Lambert who cut a lacerating drive past Timo Hildebrand and into the far corner.
One became two when 20-year-old Shaun Maloney scored on the stroke of half-time to justify his selection. He was provided the opportunity after a defender declined the easy option to clear Alan Thompson's cross and directed the ball into Maloney's feet. The second half was all Celtic and they found it easy to pin the visitors back. Thompson saw a lot of the ball out wide and Petrov buzzed around with deadly intent.
His goal arrived in the 68th minute following a low pass that Lambert slid down the left side of the Stuttgart rearguard. The Bulgarian carried the ball almost to the by-line whereupon he spotted that Hildebrand had veered slightly off his post. The invitation was too good to pass up and Petrov skilfully drove the ball through the gap.
'Big result for us'
O'Neill said: "I am very pleased as it was a big result for us, to come back and score three was terrific." However his opposite number, Felix Magath, remained confident, saying: "It will be difficult for us but we will be successful in the second leg."