Garay drags Celtic back with last 16 place in sight

Benfica 2 Celtic 1

The heartache came late, but then Celtic's Champions League run this season has flashed through the emotional spectrum at such breakneck speed that there should have been no surprise.

A result that betters Benfica's at Barcelona in their final Group G encounter with Spartak Moscow at Celtic Park next month will take them into the last 16, a position they would have willingly accepted before a ball was kicked in the competition, but last night it was almost so much more.

With 20 minutes remaining, they were through. Georgios Samaras had scored in the 32nd minute to cancel out Ola John's early opener. They weathered storms from the skies and storms from their opposition, but then, with the game in the 71st minute, Ezequiel Garay smashed a volley into Fraser Forster's goal and ensured the nerves will fray until the final ball of the group is kicked. With five minutes to go, their talismanic figure Victor Wanyama was booked for a foul that will rule him out of their final game with Spartak.

Indefatigability. It will come to be the defining quality to describe the Celtic collective. No matter what happens from here, manager Neil Lennon has drawn everything from his players. In the pouring rain, they ran and slid and blocked and fought. This was a more ferocious kind of fight than the 180 minutes of heartache and heroics against Barcelona. It was more basic, and it was from a growing sense of belief that similarly characterises this campaign that they fight their way back into this game.

It had not started well.

By the seventh minute Celtic, rocked back on their heels, were behind. Benfica bore the drive of a team who had to win, at home, where their own record is very good. Only two minutes had passed when a mistake by Samaras allowed Oscar Cardoza to run and try his luck from 25 yards. It went over, but it was a warning.

It was also symptomatic of sloppiness in the opening stages. Adam Matthews erred on the left in the seventh minute and from there, in the blink of an eye, Celtic were behind. Eduardo Salvio seized possession, crossed into the middle and with Scott Brown unable to clear, John shot so quickly that there was barely time for Forster to register as the shot flew past his right hand side.

It was a lead that should have been doubled on the half-hour mark. Salvio was again the creator, slipping a fine pass behind a leaden-footed Celtic back line that saw Efe Ambrose out of position. Cardoza had only Forster to beat but dragged his shot wide of the near post. It was massive miss. Within two minutes Celtic had drawn level.

Three times they had scored with headed goals before their trip to Portugal, records matched by only Manchester United and Ajax in this year's competition. Number four came in the 32nd minute. Charlie Mulgrew fired over his right wing corner and with Gary Hooper holding his position next to Artur, Samaras was allowed to head into an empty goal from two feet out. Celtic had their foothold and they held it firm as they positioned themselves on the back foot.

Enzo Perez shot wide from distance, Salvio crashed an effort over the crossbar after good work by Jon and Andre Almeida cut in and shot over. Forster stood up well to John to deny the Benfica star with his left foot and the impressive Nemanja Matic volleyed over the visitors' crossbar.

Benfica had given warning after the interval of what was to come. Lima produced a superb run down the Celtic right, cutting inside and then shooting past Forster, only to be denied on the line by Matthews. It was Benfica's 18th attempt on goal, to Celtic's two. Luisano shot over the bar from close range. Forster did well to deny the ever-dangerous Lima and in the 70th minute, an excellent cross from the same player flashed across the Celtic six yard area with Salvio somehow failing to get a touch.

A minute later came Benfica's second goal, and their two central defenders were creator and scorer. The initial header came from Luisano, and it was perfectly placed for Garay who crashed his powerful volley past Forster.

Wayama was denied by Artur in the home goal in the 74th minute and from the rebound substitute Kris Commons was denied. Salvio shot narrowly over Forster's crossbar and moments later Cardoza's free-kick was tipped over by the former Newcastle goalkeeper.

Man of the match Salvio.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee V Kassai (Hun).

Attendance 49,000.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Colin Firth and Emma Stone star together in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artBut what makes a smash-hit art show?
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week