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UEFA Champions League
20 September 2012
• Celtic Park, Glasgow
Referee: N. Rizzoli
• Attendance: 57759
Thanks for following tonight's live coverage from Celtic Park, I've been and am quite likely to remain Sion Cleaver, until next time, buh-bye.
Can't help but think Neil Lennon will be pleased with his side's performance but slightly frustrated with the result. Celtic do look a lot better from their last SPL outing at St Johnstone last weekend.
That's it! The whistle blows and Celtic get a point against hugely impressive opposition in Benfica. What a return to the Champions League by Celtic.
90' + 3'
Hooper passes back to Mulgrew on the wing before Brown gets hold of the ball and the Benfica goalkeeper clears, that could be it...
90' + 2'
Yellow Card Bruno César
90' + 2'
Commons plays it in, Miku takes charge and storms into the area before Cardozo clears.
90' + 1'
A great dummy from Brown sees him taken out by Cesar, who gets a yellow for his outburst. Little scrappy in the closing moments here.
Three minutes of stoppage time to go, Celtic take possession and up the pace.
Yellow Card Scott Brown
Matic collides with Brown before the Celtic talisman goes into the referee's book for his troubles. The duo have a bit of a lover's tiff before the referee breaks it up and play continues.
CHANCE! Benfica have a corner, Almeida whips it in before Cardozo jumps up and manages to head it just over!
Cardozo on the ball again, he's looking quite impressive up front now for Benfica. Matthews heads away his shot for a corner.
Brown produces a delightful tackle on Cardozo, very good interception of possession from the Celtic player.
CHANCE! Cardozo fires quite a nifty drive at goal but Nolito turns the ball in the opposite direction to avert the danger.
PENALTY SHOUT! Commons fires in a lovely cross from the left, Forrest heads at goal from a frightening angle. Possession is lost but Celtic regain as Brown passes to Forrest who is taken down inside the area. Referee's having none of it and play continues. It would have been a harsh penalty.
Brown plays a lovely one-two with Commons before the ball is dispatches to Forrest. Possessions drifts back into midfield before Miku runs the ball down the left wing and plays to Hooper, who wins a throw.
Commons takes the corner, but the referee blows for a push from Rogne.
Perez sends the ball out for a Celtic corner, Commons takes and Wanyama heads it back to Miku, who plays it inside the box and attempts a cut around the defence only to see the ball go out for a corner.
Lennon really needs to make sure Celtic don't find themselves on the backfoot. The visitors are looking very impressive at the moment.
CHANCE! Celtic reply with vigor, Hooper fires Commons past the high-up Benfica defence. The forward can see the opposition goalkeeper off his line so fires a mammoth David Beckham-esque strike from the midfield only to see it saved comfortably.
Gaitan runs down the wing before playing a pass to Cesar, the resultant shot is fired into Row Z. Half chance for Benfica there.
Commons cuts down the left before passing to Mulgrew, the ball deflects off a defender and goes out for a Celtic goal kick. Mulgrew takes and Celtic take possession in the midfield.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon doesn't look overly impressed on the home side's bench.
Not an awful lot of big chances from both sides tonight, quite a few little ones but no shots that have provoked any important saves. Still twenty minutes to go however...
Gaitan has a shot at Forster from far out, only reaches players inside the box before it is eventually cleared from any danger.
Commons fires a poor low strike from far out on the right, never troubled the keeper as it drifts embarrassingly wide of the post.
The first corner is subject to a penalty area scramble, the ball goes out for a corner. Commons take and the ball takes a slight nick from a Benfica player to go out for another corner. The third corner is given to Forrest who can't deal with it and is tackled, throw in for the home side.
Celtic form a promising attack on the right, Matthew dispatches to Brown who plays the ball into the run of Hooper. The ball is eventually cleared out for a corner.
The crowd give out quite a cheer as Gary Hooper warms up on the sidelines ready to replace Izaguirre.
Cardozo comes on to replace Aimar, who has been brilliant for Benfica this evening. Lustig is replaced by Rogne for the home side.
Aimar delivers the corner before Forster punches away two offensive opportunities from the Benfica attack, good spell from the visitors here.
CHANCE! Aimar teams up with Rodrigo up front before the ball finds the run of Gaitan, whose shot is strong but takes a deflection as the ball flies out for a corner.
An hour gone at Celtic Park and it's still goalless. The scoreline might suggest we're witnessing a boredraw of sorts, thankfully this is not the case. A goal or two late on could turn this tie into a cracker.
Commons dispatches to Brown, who plays the ball to Izaguirre only to see the ball run out of play before reaching Mulgrew deep on the left wing.
Yellow Card Pablo Aimar
The referee gets out his yellow card for Aimar's challenge, which was slightly on the reckless side.
Aimar takes down Wanyama with a sly kick from behind, Celtic take the free-kick quickly but possession is quickly lost. A lot of action in midfield at the moment.
Benfica push forward, Aimar is looking very dangerous tonight for the visitors.
CHANCE! Commons delivers the free-kick, a small scramble takes place before the ball flies out to Matthews just outside the box, he fires a strike well over.
Commons wins a free kick after a foul from Aimar. The resultant ball sees Celtic push forward only to see Izaguirre fouled outside the box. Free-kick to the home side.
Forrest provokes a huge roar of encouragement from the Celtic Park faithful as he storms down the right wing, he looks set to cut it inside but he stops and fires a kick into the box. His ball is too low and is cleared with ease.
Celtic reply with pace, Miku runs the ball into the Benfica box before dispatching to Mulgrew who volleys the ball into the run of Wanyama. The striker's header is poor and the visitors clear.
Aimar fires in a free-kick from 25 yards out, Mulgrew does well to clear. Gaitan takes the resultant corner kick before Celtic gain control of the ball and clear the danger.
Yellow Card Nemanja Matić
Forrest pushes forward on the right wing before having his effort cleared out of play.
Play resumes and Celtic push forward once more before Matic is penalised for a harsh foul from behind on Miku. The free-kick continues in the centre of the field and Benfica gain possession.
As long as it stays goalless though, anything can happen. Still hard to predict this one, but if Celtic keep this up they have a real chance of winning this one.
The home side have had the majority of the play, but Celtic’s new striker Miku will have a lot to do in order to reach the heights of the previous two incumbents of the famous number seven jersey, Scott McDonald or the legendary Henrik Larsson, who both used to score for fun for the Parkhead side.
That's half-time! The whistle has put an end to a cracking first-half at Celtic Park, the home side have been on great form but so have Benfica. It's goalless at the break.
Matthews runs with particular pace to intercept a Melgarejo run, gifting a throw to Benfica.
Miku wins the ball over in the final third, but Commons brings down Perez and Benfica are awarded a free-kick.
Miku wins celtic a corner, Commons takes but Benfica get hold of the ball and take charge by rustling the ball upfield with frightening pace. Very back and forwards stuff here.
CHANCE! Rodrigo breaks a Izaguierre run with a marvellous tackle before breaking through the Celtic defence and firing through on goal. The ball is beaten away by Forster.
Izaguierre receives a yellow for foul on Aimar outside the box, dangerous position for a free-kick. Aimar whips in a threatening ball but Brown beats his Benfica counterparts to the ball and clears it with his head only to see Perez strike it well over the woodwork.
Yellow Card E. Izaguirre
Rodrigo galavants into the Celtic area again and is taken to the ground by a cracking Forster save, he looks for a penalty but the referee's having one of it.
Perez concedes a foul for handball, it does appear to come off his chest in the replays. Commons steps up but Benfica clear.
Commons takes the kick and dispatches it high, Wanyama cracks his head onto his teammate’s effort but it goes out for a goal kick to the visitors.
Commons is nicked by Garay, free-kick for the home side.
A ridiculously loud bout of 'Come on you boys in green' rings around Celtic Park, Benfica will be used to vocal atmospheres but surely this is taking it to another level.
Izaguirre puts in a delightful little volley into the Benfica box, the ball drips out unscathed and is gathered by Commons who dispatches the ball right back into the skirmish only to see the visitors' defence take over possession.
Elsewhere in Group G, Barcelona have gone a goal up against Spartak Moscow. Tello the scorer.
Yellow Card Victor Wanyama
CHANCE! Rodrigo tucks nicely behind the Celtic defence and cracks a lovely ball at goal only to see Forster deny him in impressive fashion. After a slow start, Benfica have got back into this one.
Wanyama enters the referee's book for a foul on Perez, quite physical from the Celtic player.
Gaitan drives a hopeful effort from far out on the left-wing, straight into the waiting hands of Forster.
The home side looked like attacking again when Commons kept himself upright after a tough tackle before dispatching the ball towards Benfica's Perez.
Celtic reply in spectacular fashion, with the ball flying upfield towards the Benfica box with terrifying pace. Matthews and Forrest combine and Miku just fails to get on the end of it, the ball is eventually cleared, but what an encouraging start from Celtic.
Another corner for Benfica, Gaitan delivers a lovely ball into the box but the ball is scrambled out. Gaitan gathers down the left but his strike from far out doesn't hold much danger.
Benfica win a corner and it is played short to Salvio, who hits a powerful shot quite high. It was a thunderous strike but its height meant it didn't trouble Forster in the Celtic goal.
Celtic are settling quite nicely now, which is quite impressive considering Benfica proceeded from this competition's group stage last campaign with an unbeaten record.
Jardel concedes a free kick for the home side, Commons steps up to the plate but the Old Firm club's attacking movement eventually fizzles out as the ball drifts out for a Benfica goal kick.
Benfica almost break away in spectacular fashion, but a beautifully timed tackle from Wanyama halts any danger.
Garay is awarded a debatable free-kick, it looked like he was the offender more than anything. The decision stands however, and nothing comes of the free kick.
Gaitan teams up with Aimar up front for Benfica, but his pace isn't enough to outsmart the Celtic defence.
Brown concedes a free-kick for Celtic, Aimar takes the kick but it goes wide off the target by some margin.
Celtic get an early corner, Commons cracks a lovely drive into the box only to see it go back out for another corner for the home side. Commons hits the second and Benfica clear it.
The ball has been all in Benfica's half for the opening two minutes of this clash, the home side looked close to going in front when Miku marched into the box before passing back to Commons, who was unlucky with his footing.
We're off here at Celtic Park! The home side start the game off, playing from left to right for this first half.
The decibel level for this one is unbelievable, both teams are waiting for the whistle to be blown now...
Goal.com's very own Matthew Harold is quite excited for this one: "You’ll Never Walk Alone being played at Celtic Park and Susan Boyle is nowhere to be seen, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone inside the ground as the 60,000 fans sing it more in tune that she did during her rendition before the Helsingborg game."
Let's take a peek at the Scottish club's group then, Celtic and Benfica will both be gunning for second place come the end of the group stage. 'Aiming for second? Poppycock!' I hear you cry... I forgot to mention they have Barcelona in their group didn't I, silly me.
Celtic have been without the luxurious company of the Champions League for four years, so as you might expect, the atmosphere at Celtic Park is absolutely electric.
History suggests Celtic will triumph this evening, although the analyst inside me is confident of a Benfica victory. Only 15 minutes until kick-off at Celtic Park.
Here's a fun fact: Benfica have only ever visited Celtic Park on three occasions, losing both of them. The Portugese outfit have failed to score when the Glasgow side have been at home.
Benfica XI: Artur; Andre Almeida, Garay, Jardel, Melgarejo; Matic, Aimar, Perez; Gaitan, Salvio, Rodrigo. SUBS: Paulo Lopes (GK) Miguel Vitor, Bruno Cesar, Nolito, Andre Gomes, Oscar Cardozo, Lima
Celtic XI: Forster; Matthews, Lustig, Wilson, Izaguirre; Forrest, Brown, Wanyama, Mulgrew; Commons; Miku. SUBS: Zaluska (GK) Rogne, Watt, Lassad, Ambrose, Slane, Hooper
Benfica will start with Salvio and Rodrigo up front, with the ever talismanic Oscar Cardozo starting tonight's first-leg clash on the bench.
The teams are in, and both look quite strong. Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew are both fit for the Scottish champions, Brown has an ongoing hip problem but is deemed fit to play this evening. Meanwhile, Mulgrew has bounced back from an Achilles injury to make his return to first-team action tonight.
Benfica are clearly the more experienced side when it comes to European competitions, although out of Celtic's last 20 Champions League clashes, the Old Firm club have only been beaten twice, falling foul to Barcelona on both occasions.
This is very much a tie that is hard to predict, Celtic will be gearing to forget last Saturday's 2-1 away loss to St Johnstone in the SPL, meanwhile Benfica will be hoping to better last year's Champions League outing, a campaign which saw them narrowly beaten by Chelsea in the competition's quarter-finals.
Hello fellow football aficionados, I am Sion Cleaver and I will be guiding you through Celtic's Champions League group stage opener with Benfica this very evening. Be a good chap and stick around why don't you, it might be fun.
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