Posted on Thursday, 6th December 2012 by admin
Celtic progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League after a very tense 90 minutes against Spartak Moscow. Our result, coupled with Benfica’s goalless draw in Barcelona took us through, which on reflection is a great achievement.
Celtic didn’t play that well in the first half – understandable when you consider how important the game was – but after sustaining some early Spartak pressure we took the lead after a defensive blunder presented Gary Hooper with a chance which he smashed home. As ever with Celtic though, things are never simple, and some it proved with Spartak leveled just before half-time thinks to a cool finish from Ari after good work from Emenike.
The second half was an incredibly tense affair, with Celtic’s performance far better than in the first half, Samaras hitting the post and a Mulgrew header palmed over by Pesiakov. But the vital breakthrough came with nine minutes left, as Samaras was bundled over in the box by Suchy and the ref awarded a penalty. It was quite soft, but Celtic have had some awful penalty decisions against us in the Champions League, so we deserved that bit of luck. Kris Commons stepped up and hammered the ball into the net off the underside of the bar.
Late on, Kim Kallstrom was sent off after an awful challenge on Kris Commons, who was stretchered off. And after five minute of injury time, the tension ended and as The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ echoed throughout the stadium, Celtic have took our place amongst Europe’s elite. It wasn’t our best performance of the season but we did the job.
It really has been a great achievement for this young Celtic team to reach the last 16. And credit has to go to the players for stepping up when it counted and – yes – Neil Lennon, who I have been critical of in the past but who does deserve credit for getting Celtic through two qualifying rounds all the way to the last 16. As for who we can draw in the last 16, PSG would be an exciting game, Ibra finally playing at Celtic Park. Dortmund would also be a great game, a chance to test ourselves against probably the best team in the Champions League. But really Celtic shouldn’t fear anybody, and the last 16 game should be a wonderful occasion whoever we play. So well done to all involved at Celtic for this great achievement in getting through to the last 16. Is getting to the last 8 a possibility? You never know…