DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Sacha Kljestan did his part to help Anderlecht come through their Champions League qualifier by assisting on the team's winning goal, while Dominic Cervi and Celtic must now contend with the Europa League.
Anderlecht 3 - 0 The New Saints (agg. 6-1)
Sacha Kljestan was a starter in Anderlecht's injury-depleted midfield, playing 73 minutes in the team's win over TNS on Tuesday night, setting up the team's first goal as they moved one step closer to the competition's group stage.
While Welsh champions The New Saints would need a virtual miracle to overcome a two-goal deficit as well as make up for Anderlecht's three away goals from the first leg one week before, the Belgian team needed just 17 minutes to effectively put the game on ice and leave no questions as to their advancement.
The former Chivas USA player lined up behind the team's three-man front line and quickly made his presence known in the buildup to the ultimate knockout punch; left with space to run towards the penalty area, Kljestan split a pair of Saints defenders with a perfectly-weighted pass to forward Tom De Sutter, who smashed his shot from the right of goal through the legs of keeper Paul Harrison for the early opener.
De Sutter nearly put the hosts up by two just before halftime when he received a cross from Thomas Chatelle in front of an open goal, but sent his shot high into the stands.
Anderlecht continued to dominate after the break, largely thanks to the dominating play of 17 year-old phenom Romelu Lukaku. Last season's Jupiler League golden boot winner was introduced just before the hour mark, and needed just ten minutes to grab his first-ever Champions League goal when he collected a ball into the box just in front of goal, and unleashed a point-blank blast into the net that left Harrison no chance.
He added his second on the night five minutes later in eye-popping fashion - just following Kljestan's departure from the field - when he managed to hold the ball under pressure just outside the area, and after leaving his defender flailing on the grass unleashed a blinding low shot to the left post to give Anderlecht the final 3-0 win.
The win sends the Belgian champions through to the play-off round, where they will meet another team from the champions section of qualification to be determined in Friday's draw.
The team will have a two-week break until the round begins in mid-August, and in the meantime will turn their focus back towards their just-started Jupiler League campaign where they will visit Sporting Charleroi on Saturday.
Dominic Cervi watched from the bench as Celtic was eliminated from the Champions League third round qualifying on Wednesday, but the team still saved some face with a 2-1 home-leg victory over Portuguese club Braga. The scoreline gives the Portuguese runners up a 4-2 aggregate win and passage into the play-off to enter the group stage, while Celtic will now enter into a Europa League play-off with a possible spot in the competition's group stage on the line.