Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Celebrations at Parkhead last night where Celtic qualified for the second round of the Champions' League for the first time by surprising Manchester United 1-0, thereby leaving Man U needing a draw in their final game against Benfica in two weeks time to qualify. A stunning free kick by Shunsuke Nakamura - identical to the one he scored at Old Trafford back in September - gave the Bhoys the win, though a save by Artur Boruc from an admittedly awful Louis Saha penalty was also crucial. The English media are incredulous at the win by the champions of an inferior league, conveniently overlooking the fact that sides of much less calibre than Celtic, such as Southend United and FC Copenhagen, have already toppled United this season. Various news reports claim that United 'outplayed' Celtic, which is arrant nonsense, even if the difference in class was evident. United, for all their fine passing, created next to nothing in the way of chances; it was like watching Brazil crossed with Ireland. The chances they did get in the first half when they were more dominant came by mostly because of bad defensive errors by the hosts. Though United have happily shown themselves to be a serious threat to Chelsea domestically this season their European form is once again poor and another early exit is not unthinkable. Celtic's ambitions should be realistic enough - they are unlikely to go too far - but surely roughly half of the teams in the last 16 would be within their grasp over two legs. They did after all defeat Man U 'on aggregate' and even their disastrous performance in Lisbon would have been good enough to see them through to penalties. Best of all, the money from qualification will come in handy to bolster the squad for next season.