Celtic boost Champions League hopes with Barca upset
Manchester United advances
Celtic produced a stunning 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, rewarded for a disciplined defensive display against the European heavyweight and making the most of their rare attacks.
Victor Wanyama headed the Scottish champions in front from a corner in the 21st minute and teenage substitute Tony Watt rounded off a swift counterattack late on to score the decisive goal.
Four-time European champion Barca dominated possession but could only score in stoppage time when Lionel Messi found the net after being continuously thwarted by goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
It was the perfect result to mark 125 years since Celtic was founded.
"I think it was one of the greatest nights in the club's recent history," Celtic manager Neil Lennon said. "It was very poignant at our 125th anniversary. One, to play Barcelona in such a prestigious game and two, to win the game under huge difficulties with the squad decimated by injuries and illness.
"The players are heroes, they are heroes to me, I can't speak highly enough of their performance tonight and they will go down in the history books of the club as the team who beat probably the best team in the world."
Barca's first loss in Group G after three straight wins prevented them from securing early qualification for the knockout phase.
"Before we played I knew they were good at set pieces and we didn't want to concede too many and we didn't give them too many chances," Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said through a translator. "But I can't be satisfied because we want to win the game.
"It is a really difficult stadium but we were like the home team and we locked them in the box."
The reverse of the result in the Camp Nou two weeks ago, when Barca came from behind to win 2-1, ended the Catalan side's 12-match unbeaten run.
"It is not the first time we have lost a game like this and it won't be the last," Vilanova said.
Celtic, which won its only European title in 1967, is now just two points behind Barcelona with games at Benfica and at home to Spartak Moscow remaining.
"We still have two very tough games," Lennon said. "The problem is the players and staff will have to deal with is that the expectation level will increase. There is still a lot of work to do but we have given ourselves a platform."
Rod the Mod's beloved club
The Celtic outcome was such an unexpected result that even Rod Stewart burst into tears.
The rock star was caught on television crying at Celtic Park after the Scottish champions beat mighty Barcelona.
Stewart is one Celtic's most devoted, and famous, supporters and makes mention of his love for the club in his hit song You're in My Heart.
Barcelona took just eight minutes to put Forster under pressure with Xavi Hernandez powering in a shot from outside the penalty area.
But Celtic was crowding out the visitors in defence and when the hosts finally found the space to launch a counterattack they delivered.
Just like two weeks ago, Celtic took the lead by exploiting Barca's defensive frailties.
"We knew we could affect them at corners," Lennon said. "We looked at their back-post area with [Jordi] Alba in the zonal system and Charlie Mulgrew is one of the best dead-ball players around."
Mulgrew's delivery was met by Wanyama, who rose above Alba to head past Victor Valdes.
"The first goal was important and gave us the energy to go on," said Nigeria midfielder Wanyama. "We have been working hard at set pieces, we knew we were going to get one and we did it well."
Five minutes later, Celtic came close to stunning Barcelona again.
Another speedy break forward started by Kris Commons led to Adam Matthews delivering the ball into the penalty area where Giorgos Samaras was unable to make a connection before Valdes saved.
Barca couldn't always get the space to find its rhythm, but looked dangerous when they did.
An interchange with Andres Iniesta after beating three defenders saw Messi break clean threw, but his effort was tipped over the crossbar by Forster.
The visitors weren't panicking in the search for an equalizer, with the passing carousel around the penalty area patient before Xavi found the space to launch a shot that couldn't match the quality of the buildup.
Alexis Sanchez was denied by the post before halftime from a header and, as Celtic continued to pack its defence, Forster was Celtic's assuring presence between the posts.
The English goalkeeper kept out a dipping shot from Messi and pulled off a double save to deny Alexis, diving low and then using his feet to block the follow-up.
Forster did even better to deny Messi from point-blank range, palming the ball away with a diving save after the Argentina forward's one-two with Jordi Alba ripped through the Celtic defence.
And there was an easy save to make when Messi sent a tame free kick straight at Forster.
Celtic went straight up the other end to score.
Forster's clearance went high over Xavi and fell straight at the feet of 18-year-old striker Tony Watt, who lashed the ball straight past Valdes.
"I just saw Valdes, I thought to put it to the side of him and it might go in," Watt said. "It's probably the best moment of my life."
Barca never gave up hope of a second comeback in two weeks, but even Messi's late goal proved to be too late.
Forster was finally beaten only after he denied David Villa and Messi pounced to send the rebound into the roof of the net.
Celtic is two points behind the Spanish giants with two matches remaining.
Benfica 2, Spartak Moscow 0
Substitute Oscar Cardozo scored two second-half goals in Lisbon to give Benfica its first Champions League victory this season.
Cardozo came on at halftime and headed in a cross from Melgarejo cross in the 55th minute. The Paraguayan extended the Portuguese team's lead in the 69th when he received a pass from Ola John on the flank and struck a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Artem Rebrov.
After two defeats and a draw, the victory keeps alive Benfica's hopes of reaching the knockout round from Group G.
The Lisbon club has four points, five behind leader Barcelona and three back from Celtic with two group games left to play.
Manchester United 3, Braga 1
Javier Hernandez, Wayne Rooney and substitute Robin van Persie scored late goals as Manchester United rallied for the win in Braga, Portugal, putting the English team into the next round of the Champions League.
Manchester United's standout strikers teamed up in the last 10 minutes to put the Red Devils into the knockout phase with two games to spare after they went out last season in the group stage.
But it was the second time in two weeks United had to fight back after Braga took the lead, and the Premier League leader looked tame and far below the form of a contender for the European crown. Braga is making just its second appearance in the competition.
Hernandez tapped in from short range in injury time after Rooney scored from the penalty spot in the 84th following Nuno Coelho's tackle.
Van Persie had equalized on the break against the run of play, hitting a left-foot lob over Braga goalkeeper Beto for his third goal in four games in the tournament.
Ferguson, who on Tuesday marked 26 years at the team's helm, had said he would use more experienced players in the tournament this season. He picked Ryan Giggs in his starting lineup, but he left out Rio Ferdinand, who turned 34 on match day. Fast-paced Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez were in attack while in-form striker Van Persie started on the bench.
For most of the game Braga was the most dangerous team, and the 49th-minute penalty from Alan — who got both of Braga's goals in its 3-2 loss at Old Trafford two weeks ago — gave the home team a deserved lead after Jonny Evans bodychecked Custodio as the midfielder burst into the visitor's area.
The game was suspended for about 10 minutes in the second half because of a floodlight failure.
Galatasary 3, Cluj 1
Galatasaray won its first away Champions League match in 10 years by beating CFR Cluj 3-1 in Romania thanks to a hat trick by Burat Yilmaz on Wednesday.
Yilmaz beat goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras with a header from 12 metres out in the 18th minute. His second goal came after a defensive error by Cluj's defence in the 62nd, finishing with his right foot after being set up by Hamit Altintop. The striker finished the scoring with a nine-meter shot in the 74th.
Cluj winger Modou Sougou had earlier made it 1-1 with a 53rd-minute goal from a shot that hit the crossbar and went into the net.
Galatasaray is second in Group H on goal difference from Cluj with both teams on four points, eight behind Manchester United.
Chelsea 3, Shakhtar Donetsk 2
Victor Moses headed home the winner four minutes into injury time to earn Chelsea a 3-2 victory in London, allowing the holders to move level on points with the Ukrainian side in Group E.
Outplayed for large periods, Chelsea twice surrendered the lead in a frenetic match at Stamford Bridge, with Willian scoring both of Shakhtar's goals in the ninth and 47th minutes to enhance his burgeoning reputation.
Fernando Torres had scored Chelsea's opener in the sixth and Oscar had reclaimed the lead for the hosts in the 40th with a stunning 45-yard shot, with goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov to blame for both goals after botching attempted clearances.
Moses had the last laugh as Chelsea finished strongly, the substitute heading in Mata's cross with almost the last touch of the game. Shakhtar is only ahead on goal difference now, with Juventus a point behind.
Without Moses' late goal, Chelsea would have been in a dire position, third in the group and needing a good result at Juventus in two weeks to avoid becoming the first reigning champion to go out in the group stage. Now the situation looks a lot healthier.
It was Shakhtar's first loss in 38 games — spanning 12 months — but the visitors will wonder how they didn't claim a win that would have seen them qualify with two matches left.
Chelsea couldn't live with the visitors' pace, movement and range of passing, especially down its exposed left flank — but survived because of Pyatov's dreadful mistakes.
Juventus 4, Nordsjaelland 0
Juventus bounced back from its first Serie A loss in two seasons with a comfortable win in Turin over the Danish side to boost its chances of advancing in the Champions League.
Claudio Marchisio put the Italian champions ahead six minutes in, Arturo Vidal doubled the lead in the 23rd and Sebastian Giovinco added another for the hosts in the 37th. Substitute Fabio Quagliarella sealed the victory in the 75th.
Compared to the 1-1 draw between the clubs two weeks ago, this contest was completely one-sided, with Alessando Matri hitting the post for Juventus in the 26th.
Juventus has six points in Group E, while Nordsjaelland is last with one point.
On Saturday, Juve's 49-match winning run in Serie A ended with a 3-1 home loss to Inter Milan.
Bayern Munich 6, Lille 1
Claudio Pizarro scored a hat trick in Munich as the German side thrashed Lille to keep the French club without a point in the Champions League.
Bastain Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben scored with free kicks as Bayern romped to a five-goal lead at halftime against overmatched Lille.
Lille forward Salomom Kalou cut the deficit after the break, before Toni Kroos completed the emphatic win for Bayern.
Bayern has nine points in Group F. Valencia also has nine points and leads the group on goal difference after winning 4-2 against BATE Borisov, which has six points.
Valencia 4, BATE Borisov 2
Midfielder Sofiane Feghouli scored twice Wednesday to help Valencia beat BATE Borisov 4-2 at home in Spain and take the lead in Group F in the Champions League.
Valencia jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the 51st minute and then held off a comeback attempt by Belarusian club, which had surprisingly topped the group after three rounds.
Jonas gave the hosts the lead in the 27th minute when he controlled a cross from Tino Costa and beat BATE goalkeeper Andrei Gorbunov. Roberto Soldado doubled the lead with a penalty two minutes later, and Feghouli hit Valenica's third after deftly controlling Fernando Gago's pass.
Midfielder Renan Bressan pulled one back for BATE two minutes later and Dmitri Mozolevski made it 3-2 in the 83rd. But Feghouli made the game safe with his second goal in the 86th.