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UEFA Champions League Group G wrap: Celtic advance, Messi hurt

Celtic advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League, while Lionel Messi was injured in Barcelona’s 0-0 draw against Benfica.

A first-half strike from Gary Hooper and a second-half Kris Commons penalty secured Celtic’s 2-1 win over Spartak Moscow after a tense night of football in Glasgow.

The opening stages of the game were tetchy and evenly contested, with neither side establishing much of a stronghold on the contest or creating many clear chances.

With Brazilian striker Emmanuel Emenke looking lively for the Russian side, it looked like Celtic would be set for a night of struggle, however not for the first time in this season’s competition they showed their clinical side.

Greek striker Georgios Samaras picked up the ball on halfway and weaved past several Moscow players before launching a long ball upfield which was mis-controlled by defender Juan Insaurralde and Hooper pounced to lash the ball first time past the helpless goalkeeper.

Celtic had a few more half chances as the first-half wore on, however their opponents came back into the contest and when their equaliser came it was hardly against the run of play.

Standout man Emenke was once again at the centre of the action as he shrugged off a challenge in central midfield and drove the ball forward before feeding Ari on the right side of the box, and the Brazilian nonchalantly chipped the ball over Fraser Forster for the equaliser.

That was the last major drama of the first-half, but five minutes into the second period Celtic came within a whisker of going back in front.

Right-back Mikael Lustig did well to find some space on the right flank as he put in a decent cross which was met on the half-volley by Samaras but his shot cannoned off the post with Spartak goalkeeper Sergei Pesiakov well beaten.

After enjoying the better of the second half, Celtic finally got their reward on 80 minutes when Samaras went down in the box under very minimal pressure.

Commons stepped up and thumped the ball in via the underside of the crossbar to secure the victory and Celtic’s passage into the knockout stages for the first time since 2008.

Benfica failed to ensure it was they who followed Barcelona into the last 16 of the Champions League as the two sides played out a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou.

The Portuguese side paid the price for wasting an abundance of chances that could have seen them take a memorable three points against a largely second-string Barca team.

In a largely uninspiring game, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, who began on the bench, endured a nightmare as he left the field with a knee injury.

After a rather tame 79th-minute free kick he was denied the fabled 85th goal following a great recovery save from Artur at the death, though he seemed to do himself some damage in attempting to find the net as he was stretchered off clutching his knee.

For Benfica the point was not enough to book their spot in the next round as they finished third, two points adrift of Celtic, while Barcelona finished on top of the pile.





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Wed 5 Dec, 2012
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