Hoops' hopes in the balance

Celtic's bid to win through to the knockout stages of the Champions League will go to their last Group G fixture following a 2-1 defeat to Benfica at the Stadium of Light.

Ola John gave the home side the lead in the seventh minute before Georgios Samaras levelled in the 32nd minute from a Charlie Mulgrew corner. Defender Ezequiel Garay restored Benfica's lead in the 72nd minute to ultimately, and deservedly, leave both sides on seven points after five games.

The Scottish champions, guaranteed a Europa League spot after Barcelona beat Spartak 3-0 in Moscow earlier in the evening, will go through if, in their home game against the Russian club, they better the Portuguese side's result in Barcelona.

Neil Lennon's side, buoyed by their incredible 2-1 home win over Barca earlier in the month, had skipper Scott Brown, midfielder Joe Ledley and striker Gary Hooper back in the side as Kris Commons, Beram Kayal and Tony Watt dropped to the bench.

Benfica captain Luisao was back for the first time in the group stage following an incident with a referee in a friendly against Fortuna Dusseldorf in August while midfielder Nemanja Matic returned after serving a one-game ban on match day four.

It was a nervy start by the visitors and Benfica's opener came when Adam Matthews, playing at left-back, failed to clear his lines with a clearance, handing possession to Eduardo Salvio and when his cross arrived at John 16 yards out, he drilled his shot through the legs of right-back Mikael Lustig and past keeper Fraser Forster.

After 32 minutes, and out of the blue, Celtic were level when Mulgrew's in-swinging corner from the right was headed in by Samaras, strangely unmarked two yards out at the back post.

The goal immediately energised the Celtic players and as they moved forward with menace for the first time in the game and in the midst of driving rain the home side looked vulnerable.

Kayal replaced Mulgrew for the start of the second-half but he was soon back peddling as Benfica came out with renewed vigour. It was all hands to the pump for Celtic, who made another change in the 64th minute when Commons came on for Brown.

In the 70th minute Salvio missed Lima's cross from the left when it looked like he must score but two minutes later that was forgotten when Matic's cross from the right was headed on by Luisao and Garay volleyed powerfully past the helpless Forster from eight yards.

< Back
Reddit Facebook Digg Del.icio.us Twitter Bebo

Latest Sport

Today's Features