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Miller magic fuels Celtic charge

Published: Wednesday 18 October 2006, 0.35CET
Celtic FC 3-0 SL Benfica Two Kenny Miller goals kept Celtic on course for a place in the knockout stage after an emphatic win in Glasgow.
by Alex O'Henley
from Celtic Park
Published: Wednesday 18 October 2006, 0.35CET

Miller magic fuels Celtic charge

Celtic FC 3-0 SL Benfica Two Kenny Miller goals kept Celtic on course for a place in the knockout stage after an emphatic win in Glasgow.

Two second-half goals from Kenny Miller and a late effort from Stephen Pearson gave Celtic FC a 3-0 victory over SL Benfica in the first round of their double-header to move the Glasgow club five points clear of their Portuguese rivals in Group F.

On course
A coin toss was required to separate these sides the last time they met in 1969, but Miller's strikes within 20 minutes of the restart and substitute Pearson's first goal in the competition keep Gordon Strachan's team on course for a first appearance in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages. Although three points behind group leaders Manchester United FC, they have a substantial advantage over Benfica and FC København.

Maloney menace
The hosts started brightly and Quim was tested as early as the second minute when he tipped over an acrobatic effort from Shaun Maloney with one hand. Maloney drove into the box again soon after but was denied by a last-ditch block as Celtic's quick passing on a rain-slickened surface caused problems for the visitors. Left-back Lee Naylor was the next player to try his luck, linking with Maciej Żurawski deep inside the penalty area before another timely intervention averted the danger.

Benfica response
Having survived the early flurry of attacks, Benfica began to enjoy some possession in midfield where UEFA Champions League debutant Evander Sno appeared slightly overawed. However, as the game passed the quarter-hour mark all they had to show for their toil were two long-distance attempts from Konstantinos Katsouranis and Petit which sailed harmlessly over Artur Boruc's goal.

Chances spurned
The Lisbon outfit created another opening just before the half-hour when Nuno Assis and Léo combined down the left but Assis shot wide of the post after being teed up by Nuno Gomes. Two minutes later Fabrizio Miccoli beat the offside trap and latched on to a long ball but Boruc came smartly off his line to tidy up. With half-time approaching, Naylor forced Quim to tip over another long-range effort while at the other end, Katsouranis nodded Léo's cross just over.

Miller time
Celtic regained the initiative after the interval and finally made it count on 56 minutes. Naylor whipped a ball in from the left and Miller was first to react to Shunsuke Nakamura's mishit to divert the ball past the wrong-footed Quim. Benfica were almost level within a minute, Assis cutting in from the flank before unleashing a shot that beat Boruc and crashed back off the crossbar. Indeed, the Lisbon side were having a period of sustained pressure when Celtic broke away and doubled their lead on 66 minutes.

Victory sealed
Miller picked up a clearance on the halfway line and fed Maloney who promptly returned the favour for the Scotland striker to slot the ball past Quim. Pearson added a third in the final minute, converting a loose ball after Quim could only parry Nakamura's attempt to give Celtic an emphatic victory.

Last updated: 18/10/06 13.50CET

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