Benfica beats Celtic 2-1 in Champions League


Benfica’s Luisao, from Brazil, top, fouls Celtic’s goalkeeper Fraser Forster during their Champions League group G soccer match Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012, at Benfica’s Luz stadium in Lisbon. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

LISBON, Portugal  — The club that joins Barcelona in the Champions League knockout stage from Group G will be decided in two weeks after Benfica beat Celtic 2-1 on Tuesday.

The result left the Portuguese and Scottish teams level on seven points. Group leader Barcelona has 12 points and Spartak Moscow three.

The deciding group matches on Dec. 5 have Benfica travelling to Barcelona and Celtic hosting Spartak.

Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay volleyed home in the 71st minute to give Benfica the win it needed to stay in the tournament following a 32nd-minute equalizer from Giorgos Samaras.

Dutch striker Ola John got his first goal for Benfica in the seventh minute as Celtic failed to break its four-game losing streak in Lisbon, the city where the Scottish club won the European Cup in 1967.

Celtic, looking for its third appearance in the knockout stage, had captain Scott Brown, midfielder Joe Ledley and striker Gary Hooper back from injury. But with Brazil international Luisao returning to Benfica’s central defense after a two-month suspension for clashing with a referee, there was no easy way through.

The visitors were fortunate not to lose by a bigger margin as Benfica had 31 attempts on goal.

Samaras’ goal, heading in Charlie Melgrew’s corner kick at the back post as Benfica’s defense dozed, was Celtic’s first attempt. It was the Greek striker’s third goal in the competition, all of them away from home.

The Lisbon club poured forward in the second half, and Adam Matthews cleared Lima’s shot off the line in the 53rd.

Eduardo Salvio failed to connect with a cross when he had only the goalkeeper to beat and hit the crossbar with a long-range effort in the 74th, while Fraser Forster tipped over Oscar Cardozo’s free kick in the 80th.

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