Celtic 3 Benfica 0: Miller magic moves Celtic closer to target

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The Independent Football

Celtic's Champions' League aspirations were given a huge boost by a convincing home win against Benfica at Parkhead last night. Two second-half goals from Kenny Miller, and a late strike by substitute Stephen Pearson, proved to be just reward for an impressive display from the home side, who dominated almost from the first whistle.

Their manager, Gordon Strachan, was delighted. "I have the pleasure of not paying [to get in] and [instead] coaching this lot," he said. "It was an excellent performance against a good team... that beat Liverpool and Manchester United last season. To win by three goals is beyond our wildest expectations."

Celtic are now second in Group F behind Manchester United, with six points, and will travel to Lisbon in a fortnight knowing that a win would virtually seal a first-ever qualification into the knock-out stages.

Celtic attacked almost straight from the kick-off and in the second minute nearly took the lead. A Paul Telfer throw-in from the right was headed on by Maciej Zurawski and Shaun Maloney's spectacular volley from close range was tipped over the crossbar by Benfica's goalkeeper Quim.

Celtic were in complete control until the latter stages of the first half when Artur Boruchad to rush from the Celtic goal to foil Simao. Shortly after the interval, the Benfica captain flashed a 25-yard free-kick a yard wide. But, in the 56th minute, the home side broke through when Shunsuke Nakamura's wild shot from the edge of the penalty area was turned in by Miller from close range.

Celtic went all out for the second goal and, in the 66th minute they capitalised on the counter-attack following a Benfica corner, with Miller grabbing his second after being cleverly put through on goal by Shaun Maloney.

In the 90th minute, substitute Stephen Pearson, who replaced Evander Sno, grabbed Celtic's third after following up when Quim parried a Nakamura shot.

Celtic: Boruc; Telfer, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Lennon, Sno ( Pearson, 88), Maloney, Zurawski (Jarosik, 84), Miller. Substitutes not used: Marshall, Baldé, Thompson, Riordan, O'Dea.

Benfica: Quim; Alcides, Luisao, Ricardo Rocha, Leo, Katsouranis (Nelson, 72), Nuno Assis, Petit, Simao, Miccoli, Nuno Gomes (Fonseca, 78). Substitutes not used: Moeira, Anderson, Miguelito, Beto, Karyaka.

Referee: E Braamhaar (Netherlands).