Monday, October 8, 2012

Celtic end away-day hoodoo

Georgios Samaras is one heck of a frustrating player. He runs like a donkey, has eyes like a rabbit in the headlights and on Tuesday evening was more preoccupied by an opponent’s recovery from an elbow he accidently delivered, rather than see off the win.

Hoops fans will accept he didn’t do too much in Russia this midweek but they will forgive him after the Greek scored the winning goal that ended Celtic’s poor run of results and scores away from home in the Champions League. Indeed their dramatic 3-2 victory was their first ever away from Celtic Park in the competition.

When Emilio Izaguirre picked up the ball on the left wing there was only one place his cross was going. Samaras timed his lumbering run to perfection, taking a yard ahead of his marker to glance Izaguirre’s cross into the far corner of the net. Spartak Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium fell silent bar a rabble of Scots in the far end of the ground and 10 men on the pitch – all surrounding Samaras.

The header encapsulated Celtic’s drive all night. Neil Lennon’s side were unfazed by the plastic pitch, intimidating atmosphere and unfavourable odds betting. Not to mention the imposing record of never winning a Champions League away fixture. Samaras can be as inconsistent as Celtic in Europe yet on Tuesday night proved himself unbeatable on his day – much like his club.

The Scottish champions now have a genuine chance of progressing from a difficult group stage and currently sit second behind Barcelona in Group G. Despite drawing their first match 0-0 with Benfica at Celtic Park, Lennon’s men never gave up hope of claiming all three points in Russia with a superb performance of team spirit and composure.

Up next is a back-to-back clash with Barcelona and if Samaras can pull out another quality moment in the Nou Camp then Celtic may well rip apart all the form books before the autumn is out.

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