Celtic are through! Benfica have drawn in the Nou Camp, meaning Hooper's penalty has put the Scots where Manchester City, Chelsea and many more clubs with much more money than Celtic have failed to go. Anti-climax averted, there is just joy in Parkhead, ample reward for a fine second-half showing. Speaking of which, I'm off to collect my winnings. Bye!
Samaras, after more fine hold-up play, earns a freekick jsut outside the Spartak box. You can bet they'll be heading for the corner ....
Celtic are just trying to run down the clock, taking the ball to the corner every time they get it. Lassad has just done a fine job of holding it there for several seconds before winning a throw-in.
There will be five more minutes here too.
Five minutes of stoppage time in the Nou Camp, where Messi's injury means Barça are down to 10 men too. Commons is being carried off on a stretcher here ...
Red card for Kallstrom for a chop at Commons' groin area. He looks in serious pain and may not be able to continue.
McGeady booked for chopping down Samaras. The ref, I have just noticed, looks a lot like David Hasselhof.
As Messi misses a great chance for Barcelona, Celtic make a sub: off comes Brown on bounces Ledley.
GOAL! Celtic 2-1 Spartak Commons, pen, 82')
Commons blasts it straight down the middle and it hits the bar .... and bounces over the line! Neil Lennon couldn't watch but the roars of the crowd tell him it's time to start punching the air ... and hoping that Benfica don't poop the party with a winner at the Nou Camp ...
Samaras is bundled over in the box and the ref points to the spot! It was hardly the most aggressive shove by Suchy but there was contact and the Greek tumbled.
Solid defending from Ambrose to dispossess Emmenike jsut inside the Celtic box.
Emmenike, following a Spartak counter-attack (a rarity in the second half), sends in a glancing header. Forster saves at the near post.
What a save! Forster-esque from Pesyakov! Mulgrew met a Commons corner with a fine downward header that was bouncing into the net before the keeper tipped it over the bar!
Komborov booked for a foul that gives Celtic another chance to hoik the ball into the box. But they take it short ... and then mess things up. "Messi's bound to score, right?" quivers Simon Mcmahon. "He ALWAYS scores. Sorry, I've gone into Clive Tyldesley mode. It's one of those nights. Sorry, just did it again."
Celtic substitution: Kayal off, Lassad on.
After Mulgrew's corner is half-cleared, Commons gets the ball and twinkles his way past tow in the box before his shot is deflected behind for another corner. Mulgrew produces his best delivery of the game so far and Ambrose heads into the sidenetting.
Hooper is rewarded for his persistence with a corner, as he charges down a n attempted clearance by Pesyakov and it rebounds off his posterior and back off the keeper before going behind. Less happily for Celtic, Lustig appears to have damaged a groin and has to be replaced: on comes Matthews.
"Messi has come on for Barcelona," booms JR. "Nothing could be more perfect in my world than if he were to score to beat Benfica and clear the path for Celtic. Of course Celtic have to hang on here. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH." They're trying to do more than hang on, JR, as Izaguirre and Lustig are joining in attacks at every opportunity.
Ambrose curtails a promising break by Emmenike.
Happy noise in the ground but it's all gone quite quiet on the pitch, where Spartak continue to frustrate Celtic, who seem to be finding inspiration harder to come by.
Spartak substitution: Ari off, McGeady on.
Celtic have been much better in this half and are exerting plenty of pressure now, but Spartak are defending well and continually foil them with well-timed interventions. But you fancy there's another mistake in there somewhere from the visiting defence, who've made blunders at the back a custom this season.
Kallstrom booked for tripping Commons as Celtic tried to get a counter going. over in the Nou Camp, Messi is warming up. His pursuit of Gerd Muller's record could spell joy for Celtic. Spartak, meanwhile, have ordered McGeady to warm up.
Boisterous work in the box by Brown and Hooper before Samaras is forced wide. But the Greek lays it back for Izaguirre to spoon one up to the back post, where Hooper arrives to get off a header on target. Saved by the keeper.
Izaguirre has been tormented by Emmenike all night (as have others) and the Nigerian has ghosted past him again ... but his cross from the right is cut out by Wilson.
As Kallstrom receives treatment, a huge roar goes up from the crowd. Either they like the look of the Muscovite physio or Barça have just scored in the Nou Camp. Apparently it's still goal-less between Barcelona and Benfica so I'm left saddened that I didn't catch a clear sight of the physio ...
Lustig booked for clobbering into Kallstrom.
So close! Lustig crossed from the right and Samaras beat Kombarov to it but cracked a volley off the outside of the post!
Celtic have made a brisk start to this period but a good move down the right between Brown and Hooper concludes with Brown squirting a soft shot towards goal from 17 yards. Blocked by a defender.
As Aiden McGee enjoys the applause he receives while warming up on the sidelines, Commons curls a in a freekick, which Spartak again clear easily.
Celtic are going out as things stand but much can change in the second half. A draw may still be enough to put Celtic through if Barcelona win, while, of course, another goal for Celtic would do the job too (and enable me to win my bet) if it remains scoreless in the Nou Camp. Suspense.
Mulgrew has yet to find his range from set-pieces tonight. But here's another chance .... his swings in a 35-yard freekick but again it eludes Samaras, who has been well-marshalled by Spartak tonight and not been able to get very involved in the game.
Corner to Celtic after another decent run and cross down the right from Lustig. The keeper claims it again.
GOAL! Celtic 1-1 Spartak (Ari 38')
Lovely finish by Ari after a chance created by the excellent Emenike, who shrugged off Kayal and then played in Ari, who deftly chipped it over the out-rushing Forster and into the net despite Wilson's attempt to head it away.
Celtic are enjoying their best spell of the game at the moment, playing a bit in rival territory, though it's still all a bit scruffy. Meanwhile, apparently Benfica have just missed another glaring chance in the Nou Camp. Are Barça's reserves going to inadvertently avenge their defeat at Parkhead?
Nice play twixt Lustig and Commons before the latter crosses for Brown, whose soft curler from the edge of the area is easily gathered by Pesyakov.
"Are you going to give updates on Elgin City at Peterhead?" quizzes JR. "Any dancing going on?" I imagine there's right rhumba going on there, what with Peterhead currently leading 1-0.
After Izaguirre leads a counter-attack, Celtic gain another corner. It's cleared to the edge of the area, then Commons lets fly on the volley from 16 yards ... and it whizzes just wide.
Emmenike bursts into the box again, leaving Wilson in his wake before winning a corner. Ambrose then blocks Ari's shot. "Celtic fans have my favorite song with their Just Can't Get Enough Of You anthem which is now ringing out," cooes Eric Calhoun. "So easy to root for them when they lift the park to that atmosphere. Still, hard to believe something nice is
going to happen in Scottish football, instead of another set up for a
Brown is everywhere tonight, throwing himself about to intercept passes. But he'll have to keep that up all night because Spartak are having most of the ball here and pinging it about pretty well.
Wonderful play by Emmenike, who jinks past Ambrose .. but then whacks his shot wide from 20 yards.
GOAL! Celtic 1-0 Spartak (Hooper 20')
A terrible defensive error as Insauralde fails to cut-out a wayward pass from Samaras, and instead helps it into the path of Hooper ... but what a finish from the striker, who rifled it first time into the net from 20-yards!
Corner for Celtic. Mulgrew trots over to take. He curls it in ... and the keeper elects to punch it over for another one. He was unchallenged and could have caught it ... but just as we are forming the impression he could be dodgy, he comes and claims the next in-swinger with ease.
Spartak are certainly the more fluent side so far and Emmenike, in particular, looks a real threat. "I see on the telly box that it says Celtic are playing Spar," hollers Simon McMahon. "This CL expansion thing is going a bit far don't you think? What next, Lidl v The Co-Op?"
Snappy move by Spartak, with Kallstrom involved in the beginning, middle and end. After swapping passes with Kombaro the Swede sent a low curler just wide from the edge of the area. Nervous times for Celtic.
A strong intervention by Brown wins possession back for Celtic and then Samaras sets about galumphing down the left, all the way out of play.
Word is Benfica have just wasted a glorious chance to take the lead in Barca.
What an unbelievable miss from Benfica. Three men versus the keeper and he goes for glory rather than picking a man either side.— Daniel McDonnell (@McDonnellDan) December 5, 2012
Spartak romp forward and a cross from the left is aimed at Emmenike, who has looked menacing early on. Wilson manages to cut it out.
Better from Celtic. Lustig sends one from deep towards Samaras, who attempts to nod down for Hooper on the box, but he put too much meat on his loaf and the chance is gone, like a bat out of hell.
Mulgrew's delivery from the freekick forces Insaurralde to head clear under pressure from Samaras.
Calm play by Mulgrew and Izzaguire enables Celtic to play their way out of trouble and try to build their first meaningful attack of that match. Lustig's cross from the right bangs into the hand of Kombarov and the ref awards a freekick wide on the right.
There's plenty of early zest about Spartak, who appear liberated by not having anything to play for other than the pleasure of being a spoilsport. Celtic are being made to chase a lot.
That's a wild foul by Commons on Jurado. He arrived later than the Fiver and smashed the Spaniard to the ground. A clear demonstration of the need for Celtic to avoid over-eagerness. Mind you, the ref for some reason declined to show a yellow card, when others might have shown a red.
Off we go. Celtic lose possession early doors and Spartak rumble forward down the right but Ari's cross is cut out by Forster.
7:33pm: "Gah, not only rooting for Celtic to win but putting money on the result?!" spew Ryan Dunne. "Whatever happened to the good, old pro-Glorious Glasgow Rangers journalistic objectivity that was such a feature of the prelapsarian fitba meedja!? I did see some SM Russians wondering about Glasgow today. I imagine they were sneering at puny, wrapped-up-warm Westerners who regarded a couple of degrees over freezing as cold" Rest assured Ryan, I will stop rooting for Celtic ... as soon as they get two goals: don't want them ruining my bet with a third goal, although it could get to the stage where I'm urging them to score an og.
And in the other corner ...
Celtic need to get a better result than Benfica, who face Barcelona tonight. Well, a shade of Barcelona. Here are the line-uyps:
Barcelona: Pinto, Montoya, Puyol, Adriano, Planas, Thiago,
Song, Sergi Roberto, Tello, Rafinha, Villa.
Subs: Valdes, Pique, Messi, Jonathan, Busquets, Sergi, Deulofeu.
Benfica: Artur Moraes, Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Melgarejo,
Gomes, Matic, Nolito, John, Lima, Rodrigo.
Subs: Paulo Lopes, Luisinho, Cardozo, Bruno Cesar, Gaitan, Jardel, Almeida.
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway)
Stuff and nonsense (and teams)
Michael Collins. No, not that one. The one who went all the way into space with Messers Armstrong and Aldrin but then had to sit the shuttle while they got to prance around on the moon. It must have been fun and all, popping up to space, but not getting to engage in some lunar frolicking had to have made it a tad anti-climatic. That's the sort of feeling Celtic seek to avoid tonight: after the momentous victory over Barcelona, to fall short of the Cahampions League knockout stages would be a colossal comedown. Especially as they have already shown that they have they beating of this Spartak side: their victory in Moscow was thoroughly deserved and they looked like achieving it even before the Russians had a man sent off. Celtic are almost a man down tonight, what with the formidable Victor Wanyama being suspended, but in comes Beram Kayal to add niftiness so the Scots should still be strong enough to progress. For what it's worth, I've put my money on 2-1, with Mr Hooper adding two fine goals to a roll of honour that already includes many fine strikes and Ma href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Hooper”>running a highly successful retail business on Sesame Street</a>.
Celtic: 1-Fraser Forster; 23-Mikael Lustig, 6-Kelvin Wilson, 4-Efe Ambrose, 3-Emilio Izaguirre; 8-Scott Brown, 15-Kris Commons, 33-Beram Kayal, 21-Charlie Mulgrew; 9-Giorgos Samaras, 88-Gary Hooper
Spartak Moscow: 30-Sergei Pesyakov; 2-Juan Insaurralde, 17-Marek Suchy, 23-Dmitry Kombarov; 7-Kirill Kombarov, 6-Rafael Carioca, 21-Kim Kallstrom, 19-Jose Jurado; 9-Ari, 29-Emmanuel Emenike, 10-Artem Dzyuba
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)
Paul will be here shortly. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from Ewan Murray's preview:
Europa League football beyond Christmas, which is guaranteed, was regarded as the more reasonable aim for Celtic at the onset of Group G. Heading into its final match, Neil Lennon's men know they need to better Benfica's result at the Camp Nou to progress to the knockout phase of the Champions League.
Victory over Spartak would afford Celtic a 10-point group stage haul for the first time. Yet is the allure of qualification – something clubs with considerably bigger budgets than Celtic have proved unable to achieve – which appeals most to Lennon.
"I think we've got to go for it," said Celtic's manager. "This is their moment and they might never get this opportunity again. I am not going to put any extra pressure on the players, I just want them to go and play as we can at home on a European night. Aggressively and with a good tempo to the game.
"We have got players who can score goals. We've got flair players in the team who can rise to the occasion. So you are hoping that will all encompass itself on the one night. They are capable of doing it."