Benfica's Ola John and Ezequiel Garay secured a 2-1 win over Celtic on
Tuesday that threw the race for the second qualifying spot in Champions
League Group G wide open with one round of matches remaining.
Lisbon club are level on seven points with the Scots but have a better
head-to-head record. If Benfica's result at already-qualified Barcelona
at least matches Celtic's at home to Spartak Moscow they will reach the
Liberian-born winger John, signed from Dutch side Twente Enschede in the
close season, drilled home the opener after seven minutes but although
Celtic surrendered most of the possession they were deadly up front.
Giorgos Samaras equalised with the visitors' first opportunity,
towering above the defence to head in from a corner after 32 minutes.
missed several chances as Celtic tried to hang on for the draw that
would have put them through but their persistence paid off when
Argentine Garay volleyed the winner after 71 minutes.
was not easy but it was deserved. We need to follow this path against
Barcelona and I feel we can do a huge game there and get a result," said
Barcelona had qualified earlier on Tuesday with a 3-0 win at Spartak, who are bottom.
disappointed with the two goals we conceded," Celtic manager Neil
Lennon told the BBC. "There was a lack of composure, a nervousness about
us at times on the ball."
John chose the perfect moment to grab his first goal for Benfica.
squandered possession and Argentine winger Eduardo Salvio surged past
two defenders on the right before sending over a cross that eventually
fell for John to fire in.
coach Jorge Jesus opted for the tall trio of Nemanja Matic, Luisao and
Oscar Cardozo to counteract Celtic's danger from set pieces but the
defence was still found wanting.
Scottish champions equalised from their first corner just past the
half-hour mark when Samaras was left unmarked at the far post and
dispatched an easy header to the despair of the home fans on a wet
evening in Lisbon.
was really close, we lost it on details but the team effort was there
and we'll look forward to the next game," Celtic striker Samaras was
quoted as saying on the UEFA website. "We must stay
positive, we can still reach the next round and we must focus on beating
created several chances in the second half, the best when Brazilian
striker Lima ghosted past a defender and then beat Celtic keeper Fraser
Forster only for his shot to be cleared off the line by Welsh defender
"We beat a team
who have been lucky in the Champions League," said Benfica coach Jesus.
"They scored from a set piece and should had left here with three or
four goals in their net. We will go into the match at Barcelona with a
lot of confidence."
who earned a memorable 2-1 win at home to Barcelona two weeks ago, ran
out of luck with 20 minutes remaining. Matic floated a beautiful cross
into the box and Luisao cushioned a header for Garay to volley into the
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