Benfica vs. Celtic: Final score 2-1, Garay wins it for the Eagles

Julian Finney

The Hoops failed to secure a palce in the next round of the Champions league, falling 2-1 at Benfica. A spot in the Round of 16 will come down the final group stage match day in two weeks

Celtic put up a valiant effort but ultimately couldn't shut down Benfica's attack, falling 2-1 at the Estádio da Luz. Goals from Ola John and Ezequiel Garay led Benfica, preventing Celtic from clinching a spot in the Round of 16 and setting up an exciting final match day in Group H.

Benfica got off to a dream start, taking the lead in the 7th minute thanks to Ola John. The initial cross in from the right was deflected in to the center of the box where Óscar Cardozo tried, but failed to get control off the ball. Fortunately for Benfica, Celtic couldn't clear the danger and the ball trickled back to John whose low shot tipped off Artur's fingers and in the back of the net.

Benfica should have had a second goal in the 30th minute after Lima found Cardozo making a diagonal run in the box, splitting the Celtic defenders. Cardozo spoiled the chance though, sending his shot well over the crossbar.

Celtic continued to struggle until late in the half when they finally started getting some possession.

In the 32nd minute Charlie Mulgrew stepped up to take a corner and sent a perfectly placed ball to the far post where Georgia Samaras was inexplicably unmarked. Samaras didn't waste the chance and headed the ball in for the equalizer as Artur threw his arms up in frustration at his team's terrible marking.

Celtic goalkeeper Frasier Forster denied Ala John a second goal right before halftime, making a fantastic save with his feet on John's shot from about 10 yards away, to the left of goal.

Benfica came close early in the second half after Forster got caught off his line in traffic as André Almeida launched a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net. Fortunately for Celtic, Adam Matthews was covering the space in front of goal and cleared away the shot before it could cross the line.

Despite their heroic defending record so far in the group stages, Benfica got closer and closer as the match dragged on. In addition, the Eagles were doing a much better job of using their width and stretching the Celtic defense, something Barcelona didn't do in their loss to Celtic. Benfica's persistence paid off in the 71st minute.

After a short corner, the ball was sent in to the center of the back where Benfica defender Luisão went way up in the air to head the ball down right to Ezequiel Garay was all alone on the right side of the Celtic box. Garay wasted no time, volleying the ball past Forster to put Benfica ahead 2-1.

Victor Wanyama picked up a yellow card for a poor tackle in the 85th minute and he will miss the Hoops's final group stage match against Spartak Moscow.

Despite some late chances, Neil Lennon's side couldn't break through and Benfica held on for the 2-1 win. The result sets up a dramatic final day in Group G. Benfica and Celtic both sit on seven points, but the Portuguese side holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Hoops will have to get some help from Barcelona and hope they can get a better result that Benfica on the day if they want to continue on in the Champions League this season.

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