Celtic 1 FC Copenhagen 0: Miller on the spot to open Celtic account

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The Independent Online

Kenny Miller's first-half penalty was enough last night to lift Celtic to second place in Group F and raise hopes that progress to the Champions' League knockout phase might be feasible at last.

Gordon Strachan's side were so effervescent early on that a rout seemed on the cards. Shunsuke Nakamura was a whirl of energy and tricks. Aiden McGeady was all pace and precision, while both full-backs, Paul Telfer and Lee Naylor, gave progressive support.

Miller, who finally scored his first Celtic goal at the weekend - in the Old Firm derby, against his former side, Rangers - was once again hugely impressive. His spot-kick was emphatic, slammed home low and hard after Nakamura had elicited an illegal tackle from Michael Gravgaard. But his overall contribution continues to be most eye-catching, as a striker who craves goals but is willing to chase for miles to aid his team-mates' cause.

"Kenny only decided this morning to take the penalties," said Strachan afterwards. "After seeing his [tentative recent] penalty for Scotland against the Faroe Islands, that meant a nervous day," he joked. "This was a big night for us. They were a big, big side, so we couldn't get involved in a battle physically, so we had to move the ball and we did."

All true, and all positive, in the first half at least. They were less imposing after the break, when FC Copenhagen had their only shot of the match, a scuffed effort wide by Atiba Hutchinson. Still, a dominant night, a clean sheet and three points all give Celtic the confidence that they, rather than Benfica or FC Copenhagen, can slip into Manchester United's slipstream through the group stage.

With Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink out injured, Maciej Zurawski partnered Miller up front. Before the penalty, Nakamura and McGeady both went close.

The best efforts from the visitors were from their fans. To paraphrase the Carlsberg advert, FC Copenhagen don't brew lager, but if they did it would come in enormous bottles and you'd start laughing as soon as you took the top off. The men on the pitch were huge - seven players towering between 6ft 1in and 6ft 5in - and those in the stands were mirth personified.

They came, they roared jokey chants in perfect English with the faintest of accents, including: "Are you Rangers in disguise?" Cue Nakamura, and Miller, and the decisive goal.

Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor; Nakamura, Lennon, Gravesen, McGeady (Pearson, 88); Zurawski (Beattie, 73), Miller (Maloney, 82). Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Baldé, Sno, Jarosik.

FC Copenhagen (4-4-2): Christiansen; Jacobsen, Hangeland, Gravgaard, Bergdolmo (Thomassen, 75); Silberbauer, Linderoth, Norregaard, Hutchinson; Berglund (Kvist, 55), Allback. Substitutes not used: Gall (gk), Wendt, Pimpong, Bergvold.

Referee: F Mayer (Germany).

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