Late penalty puts Celtic through to last 16
GLASGOW (AFP) –
A late Kris Commons penalty sealed a 2-1 win for Celtic over ten-man Spartak Moscow that saw the Glasgow giants progress to the last 16 of the Champions League after Benfica could only manage a goalless draw in Barcelona.
Spartak had come close through Kim Kallstrom and Emmanuel Emenike before Gary Hooper pounced on a Spartak defensive error to fire Celtic into a 21st minute lead.
The goal spurned Spartak on and the Russians grabbed an equaliser in the 39th minute when Ari showed good composure to lob Fraser Forster from a difficult angle.
Georgios Samaras smacked the post with a volley just after the break and Mikel Lustig saw a header tipped just over as Celtic chased a winner.
With just 10 minutes remaining Samaras won a penalty after a push in the box from Kirill Kombarov and Commons kept his cool to smash his spot-kick in off the bar.
Both sides ended with ten men after Kallstrom saw a straight red in the 88th minute for a high challenge on Commons, that saw the Celtic player stretchered off with the home side having made all their substitutions.
The win sees Celtic become the first Scottish side to achieve ten points in the competition as they progress out of the group stages for only the third time in their history behind Group G winners Barcelona.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon said qualification meant the world to him.
“I’m very proud of the players – they’ve performed a miracle,” Lennon, who was leading the Hoops for the first time in the competition, said.
“No one gave us a prayer coming into this group and we have qualified and deservedly so. I felt in the second half we had control of the game and deserved to win.”
His Spartak counterpart Valeri Karpin felt his side had deserved more from the game. “The first half was probably the best we have played in a long time now,” Karpin said.
“It’s quite disappointing to lose such matches when we played well, but we congratulate Celtic on their success.”
Only Scott Brown and Kelvin Wilson had survived from the Celtic side that drew 1-1 with Second Division Arbroath at the weekend while a strong Spartak line-up didn’t have room for former Celtic hero Aiden McGeady, who started on the bench.
Spartak carved Celtic open with 15 minutes played when Artem Dzyuba cushioned Kallstrom’s pass back into the Swede’s path and he curled an effort just wide of the post with Forster at full-stretch.
Moments later Ari flicked the ball on for Emenike to chase but the forward fired his shot well over the bar.
Celtic had failed to really trouble the Spartak defence in the opening 20 minutes but a clinical finish from a terrible defensive error saw Hooper grab the opener.
Samaras launched a hopeful ball forward from the half-way line and when Juan Insaurralde made a hash of his clearance Hooper was first to react to lash a low right-foot piledriver past the keeper from 20 yards.
The goal sparked the Russians into life and Nigerian international Emenike made room for himself at the edge of the box before slicing a shot just wide.
In the 39th minute Spartak got a well-deserved equaliser as they caught Celtic on the break.
Emenike showed great strength to shrug off the challenge of Kayal before slipping in Ari who causally dinked the ball over the advancing Forster and into the net despite the best efforts of Kelvin Wilson on the line.
Samaras came close to restoring their advantage in the 51st minute when he connected well with Lustig’s cross from the right but his volley smacked the base of the post on its way out.
Efe Ambrose headed into the side netting before Sergei Pesyakov pulled off a superb save to tip Lustig’s goal ward bound header over the bar after the Swede connected well with a Commons corner.
Just when it looked like the Hoops had run out of ideas Commons smacked his powerful 81st minute spot-kick straight down the middle which bounced off the bar and down over the line.