FOOTBALL / Celtic shocks Barcelona; Chelsea keeps its hopes alive
: Manchester United became the third club to reach the Champions League football knockout stages after coming from behind to beat Braga 3-1 and ensure it also tops its group.
However, it was the side that beat it to being Britain’s first ever winner of the European Cup, Celtic, that cornered the glory on Wednesday as it recorded a 2-1 home win over four-time champion Barcelona just a day after the host celebrated its 125th birthday.
Another British winner of European club football’s premier competition — defending champion Chelsea — kept its hopes alive of avoiding the humiliation of becoming the first champion to go out at the group stage with a last-gasp 3-2 home win over talented Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
However, while it tops the group on goal difference from Shakhtar its fate probably hangs on its trip to Italian champion Juventus in a fortnight as its host is just a point behind it having demolished Nordsjaelland 4-0 in Turin.
Big win for Bayern
The biggest winner of the night was last season’s beaten finalist Bayern Munich which humiliated hapless French side Lille 6-1 with Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro scoring a hat-trick in the first-half.
Bayern is battling it out on the same points as Valencia, which also enjoyed an easy night at home beating early pacesetter BATE Borisov 4-2. The Belarus side trails the top two by just three points but appears to have gone off the boil.
Man United was second best for most of its match with Braga but having resumed after a second-half power cut it scored three times in the last 10 minutes to give the scoreline a rather unfair look about it but still has a place in the last 16.
That above all was a relief to Alex Ferguson and his players after they missed out on the knockout stages last season.
“I think we were all disappointed (we didn’t progress from the group stage last year),” said veteran Ryan Giggs.
Celtic had been unfortunate to lose 2-1 to Barcelona a fortnight ago having taken the lead but it did not make the same mistake on Wednesday more than holding its own after an early goal by the outstanding Victor Wanyama.
It sealed the points through a superbly-taken late second from 18-year-old Tony Watt — Lionel Messi grabbed a stoppage time consolation goal — prompting wild celebrations.
“I said when I took the job that I wanted to bring the thunder back to the club and I have never heard anything like that at the end of the match,” said manager Neil Lennon.
Chelsea showed terrific grit to seal its victory in the fourth minute of stoppage time through Victor Moses, his first goal in the competition, but its opponent deserved a share of the spoils.
The results : Group E : Juventus 4 (Marchisio 6, Vidal 23, Giovinco 37, Quagliarella 75) bt Nordsjaelland 0; Chelsea 3 (Torres 6, Oscar 40, Moses 90+4) bt Shakhtar Donetsk 2 (Willian 9, 47).
Group F : Valencia 4 (Jonas 26, Soldado 29-pen, Feghouli 51, 86) bt BATE Borisov 2 (Renan 53, Mozolevski 83); Bayern Munich 6 (Schweinsteiger 5, Pizarro 18, 28, 33, Robben 23, Kroos 66) bt Lille 1 (Kalou 58).
Group G : Benfica 2 (Cardozo 55, 69) bt Spartak Moscow 0; Celtic 2 (Wanyama 21, Watt 83) bt Barcelona 1 (Messi 90+1).
Group H : Cluj 1 (Sougou 53) lost to Galatasaray 3 (B. Yilmaz 18, 61, 74); Braga 1 (Alan 49-pen) lost to Manchester United 3 (van Persie 80, Rooney 84-pen, Hernandez 90+2). — Agencies