UEFA Champions League Group G wrap: Celtic stun Barcelona
By Football News
Celtic clinched a shock 2-1 victory over Barcelona to hand the Catalan giants their first Champions League group stage defeat in three years.
The hosts took the lead in the first half through Victor Wanyama after the Kenyan got the better of left-back Jordi Alba to head home a beautifully curled in Charlie Mulgrew corner.
Despite constant pressure from the visitors, it was Celtic that grabbed that crucial second goal late in the second half with forward Tony Watt latching on to long ball, out-pacing Javier Mascherano before coolly slotting home into the far corner.
Barcelona managed to grab a late goal back through Lionel Messi, but it proved too little too late for the Spanish giants.
In a cagey opening, the visitors struggled to create anything of note and Celtic took the lead in the 20th minute through a Wanyama header at the back post.
This prompted an immediate response from Barcelona and Messi struck the bar from just inside the area shortly afterwards after a period of sustained pressure in the final third, while Alexis Sanchez hit the foot of the post with a header from a Dani Alves cross 10 minutes before the break.
After half-time the game began to open up more with Barcelona peppering the Celtic area with wave after wave of attack and Sanchez brought a terrific save out of Fraser Forster low to his right on the hour mark.
The constant probing and movement of Barcelona saw them carve open the hosts defence in the 70th minute and Messi forced another fantastic stop from Forster after latching on to Alba's cut-back down the left before hitting a sweet strike towards the bottom right corner only to see the goalkeeper claw it away.
With the visitors piling on the pressure, it was Celtic who struck next in the 83rd minute when a long punt down field by Forster was missed by Xavi and Watt was through in on goal past Mascherano before rifling his strike into the bottom left-hand corner to hand his side a two-goal lead.
Barcelona grabbed a goal back in the 90th minute through Messi after Forster parried a Pedro shot inside the six-yard box following an intricate, flowing move, leaving the forward to smash home high into the goal.
Nevertheless, despite some nervy moments late on with Barcelona flooding forward, Celtic were able to clinch the historic win in front of their own fans in what will go down as their best European result since winning the European Cup final back in 1967 against Inter Milan.
Benfica kept their hopes of qualification from the Group G alive with a 2-0 victory over Spartak Moscow with Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo proving the difference.
Cardozo wasted no time in leaving his mark on the game after being introduced at the break, as he scored two goals in quick succession, the first a powerful header from close range, and the second a well-taken half volley from 10 yards out.
Cardozo had one final chance to make it three goals in 45 minutes late in the game, but after racing through on goal he poked an effort just wide of Rebrov's right-hand post under pressure from Juan Insaurralde.
The result moves Benfica up to third place in the group, three points behind Celtic and five behind leaders Barcelona.