GEORGIOS Samaras’ last-gasp header gave Celtic a dramatic Champions League Group G
victory over 10-man Spartak as Neil Lennon’s men recorded a first away win in the group stages of the Champions League.
Scorers: Spartak Moscow - Emenike (41, 48); Celtic - Hooper (12), Kombarov (71, og), Samaras (90) Bookings: Spartak Moscow - Insaurralde (sent off); Celtic - Mulgrew, Wanyama
Striker Gary Hooper put the visitors ahead in the 12th minute before Emmanuel Emenike netted twice for the Russian club, once either side of the break.
Spartak defender Juan Insaurralde was sent off just after the hour mark for fouling Hooper as the striker went clean through on goal.
Celtic levelled in the 72nd minute with an angled drive by substitute James Forrest, who had replaced Victor Wanyama, deflected in off Spartak captain Dmitri Kombarov and, to cap a remarkable night for the visitors, Samaras headed in an Emilio Izaguirre cross seconds after the regulation 90 minutes.
The Parkhead men had drawn 1-1 with Spartak on their artificial turf in a Champions League play-off game in 2007 but this time they went one better and it was Samaras who came up with the goods.
There was little surprise that the Greece striker returned to the starting XI, with Forrest starting on the bench. Samaras, a favourite of Lennon, made a substitute appearance in the 2-0 Clydesdale Bank Premier League win over Motherwell on Saturday after recovering from an elbow injury.
Former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady returned to the Spartak midfield after being rested for the 3-1 league win over Amkar. The home side forced three corners in the first three minutes, a spell of pressure ending when Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom barged his way into the Celtic box before firing high over the bar.
Spartak had lost the services of goalkeeper Andriy Dykan to injury, his place taken by
Sergei Pesyakov. But he had little chance with Hooper’s well-taken goal, which stemmed from
Kallstrom’s timidness in a 50-50 tackle with Wanyama. The powerful midfielder played the ball wide to right-back Mikael Lustig to deliver low for the former Scunthorpe striker to clip the ball in from around six yards.
The Scottish champions retained a threat going forward and, in the 24th minute, Hooper had the ball in the Spartak net again, this time with a header from a Samaras cross, only to see the flag up for offside.
In the 34th minute, Emenike was on the end of a Evgeni
Makeev cross but headed high over the bar from ten yards. Moments later, Samaras had a decent chance when Kris Commons flighted a free-kick on to his head, but the big Greek failed to make good contact and
It looked like Lennon’s side would take a lead into the interval but, four minutes from the break, Emenike knocked the ball past Forster from close range after being set up by Ari, who had latched on to a delightful long ball by Kallstrom. Emenike grabbed his second three minutes into the second period. Forster spilled Ari’s drive and Demy de Zeeuw pounced to play the ball across goal for the Nigeria striker to tap in. It looked a difficult task for Celtic, but they had a chance to level in the 58th minute when Charlie Mulgrew’s free-kick from the right found the head of stopper Efe Ambrose, but he missed the target.
There was some needless controversy surrounding Insaurralde’s dismissal. The Spartak defender hauled Hooper back as he raced through on goal from Mulgrew’s pass but, at first, French referee Tony Chapron played on, then, after presumably taking some instruction from one of his officials, he showed the
Argentine the red card.
Mulgrew’s free-kick, when it was eventually taken, was punched away by Pesyakov, who dealt comfortably with Emilio Izaguirre’s volley from the rebound. But there was more drama to come in the 72nd minute when Forrest’s angled shot from 12 yards, after good work by Samaras and Hooper, was saved by Pesyakov before going in off Kombarov.
Pesyakov made a good fingertip save from Joe Ledley, who had replaced Mulgrew, and the keeper saved again from Hooper. But, with the game in added time, Samaras rose to head
Izaguirre’s cross into the far corner of the net.
Spartak Moscow: Pesiakov, Insaurralde, Pareja, Rafael Carioca, McGeady (Dzjuba 76 ), De Zeeuw (Bryzgalov 65), Kallstrom, Kombarov, Makeev, Ari (Kozlov 87), Emenike. Subs: Rebrov, Bryzgalov, Kombarov, Bilyaletdinov, Dzjuba, Yakovlev, Kozlov.
Celtic: Forster, Izaguirre, Ambrose, Wilson, Mulgrew (Ledley 80), Lustig, Brown, Commons, Wanyama (Forrest 70), Samaras, Hooper. Subs: Zaluska, Rogne, Ledley, Kayal, Forrest, Miku, Watt.