The big story in the Champions League on Wednesday night was Celtic’s excellent 2-1 victory over Spanish giants Barcelona at Celtic Park.
The victory was made even more extraordinary by the fact that Celtic were missing key players Scott Brown and Gary Hooper.
Celtic took the lead on 21 minutes. Charlie Mulgrew fired in a corner and Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama got above Jordi Alba to head past Victor Valdes.
Barcelona kept going and were denied on numerous occasions by Celtic keeper Fraser Forster.
Celtic withstood a barrage from Barca and hit a second goal in the 83rd minute. Teenage substitute Tony Watt broke clear of the Barcelona defence and fired past Victor Valdes superbly.
Barcelona then lay siege to the Celtic goal, but couldn’t find a way through until stoppage time. Pedro’s effort was blocked by Forster and Lionel Messi was on hand to fire past the outstanding keeper.
The victory leaves Celtic second in Group G, just two points behind their Spanish opponents from last night. In the other game in the group Benfica defeated Spartak Moscow 2-0 at the Estadio Da Luz.
The Portuguese side took the lead on 55 minutes, Oscar Cardozo finishing from close-range. The second came in the 69th minute, as Cardozo volleyed home his second of the game. It got worse for the visitors on 76 minutes, as defender Nicolas Pareja was dismissed.
Group E saw Chelsea snatch an injury-time goal to defeat Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. The home side took the lead in the 6th minute. Spanish striker Fernando Torres closed down the Shakhtar keeper Pyatov and the ball ricocheted into the back of the net.
Shakhtar equalised in the ninth minute, Brazilian midfielder Willian firing home from Fernandinho’s cross. However the home side were back in the lead on 40 minutes. Pyatov rushed out of his goal and headed clear a Juan Mata pass, only for Brazilian midfielder Oscar to fire a superb half-volley from 40 yards into an empty net.
The visitors were back on level terms in the 47th minute. Darijo Srna’s cross was stroked home by Willian for his brace. Chelsea secured victory deep into injury-time; substitute Victor Moses heading home from a corner kick.
The victory put Chelsea joint with Shakhtar at the top of the group on seven points. Italian giants Juventus are just behind on six, after the Bianconeri defeated Danish outfit Nordsjaelland 4-0 in Turin.
Juve were ahead on six minutes midfielder Claudio Marchisio scoring from Mauricio Isla’s cross. Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal slid home Juve’s second on 23 minutes. The Italian champions were three up in the 37th minute, as Sebastian Giovinco curled home an effort.
The rout was complete on 75 minutes by substitute Fabio Quagliarella. The defeat confirms Nordsjaelland’s exit from the competition.
In Group F, Bayern Munich hammered French side Lille 6-1 at the Allianz Arena. Bayern took the lead on five minutes through a Bastian Schweinsteiger free-kick. The home side were two goals up in the 18th minute, Claudio Pizarro firing home from Franck Ribery’s pass.
Bayern extended their lead in the 23rd minute, Arjen Robben’s free-kick deflecting in off a Lille defender. Pizarro made it four in the 28th minute, scoring from Philip Lahm’s cross. The Peruvian completed his hat-trick on 33 minutes, heading home from another Lahm delivery.
The French side got a goal back in the 57th minute. Former-Chelsea star Salomon Kalou found the net from 30 yards with a superb strike that found the top corner of Manuel Neuer’s goal.
Bayern completed Lille’s misery in the 66th minute, as substitute Toni Kroos fired home from Lahm’s cross. The victory leaves the German side top of the group.
Their main rivals in the group Valencia defeated Bate Borisov 4-2 at the Mestalla to keep pace with the German giants. Brazilian striker Jonas gave Los Ches the lead on 26 minutes from a Tino Costa cross.
Striker Roberto Soldado doubled the Spaniards lead from the spot in the 29th minute. Midfielder Sofiane Feghouli fired home Valencia’s third from the edge of the area in the 51st minute.
The visitors got a goal back through a Renan Bressan free-kick in the 54th minute. Bate cut the deficit down even further through an 83rd minute strike from Dmitri Mozolevski. The Spanish club secured all three points in the 86th minute though, as Feghouli struck his second of the game.
The two results leave Bayern and Valencia level on nine points at the top of Group F. BATE are not far behind though, with six points. Lille have endured a miserable campaign and sit bottom of the group having failed to pick up a single point in the competition.
In Group H, Manchester United have qualified for the knockout stages after a 3-1 victory at Braga. However it was the visitors that struck first. Midfielder Custodio was brought down in the penalty box by Jonny Evans and Alan made no mistake with the spot kick.
United didn’t hit back until the 80th minute though. Substitute Robin Van Persie chipped the ball over Beto in the Braga goal for the equaliser. Wayne Rooney was awarded a penalty in the 85th minute after Nuno Coelho was adjudged to have fouled the England international.
Rooney then stepped up to score the resulting penalty himself. There was still time for Javier Hernandez to prod home a third goal for United in injury-time.
The other game in the group saw Galatasaray win 3-1 at Romanian champions Cluj. The Turkish side were ahead on 18 minutes through a header from striker Burak Yilmaz. Cluj were back on level terms in the 53rd minute, Modou Sougou scoring from a Rafael Bastos pass.
Cluj pushed forward to attempt to gain the lead but it was the visitors who retook the lead on 61 minutes, Turkish international Yilmaz adding his second goal of the game from close range.
Yilmaz completed his hat-trick on 74 minutes, firing home from a tight angle. The victory kept Gala very much in with a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. Manchester United are already through after collecting maximum points from their four games.
However, any of the other teams in the group can still qualify. Galatasaray and Cluj both have four points, while Braga have three points.
Was Celtic’s victory against Barcelona the biggest ever Champions League shock?