SL Benfica took advantage of another bout of travel sickness from Celtic FC to rekindle their UEFA Champions League ambitions with a comfortable win in Lisbon.
Twenty-four hours after Halloween it was a nightmare evening for Celtic defender Gary Caldwell who, in the opening 22 minutes, scored an own goal and then let in Nuno Gomes to establish an advantage which Benfica never looked like relinquishing. Substitute Andrei Karyaka completed the scoring in the closing stages as Benfica moved within two points of second-placed Celtic in Group F.
Lisbon is arguably the most evocative venue of all for Celtic supporters and memories of their 1967 European Champion Clubs' Cup triumph in this city were revived by the half-time appearance of eleven members of Jock Stein's history-making team. Unfortunately for the many Celtic followers in the north stand, it was recent rather than distant history that they saw repeated as the Scottish champions maintained their record of not a single away win or clean sheet on their travels in the UEFA Champions League.
With the stakes so high for Benfica, it was no surprise they took the game to Celtic and their high-tempo start reaped swift reward. After 270 scoreless minutes in Group F, the drought lasted just ten more before the hosts were celebrating their first goal in this season's competition. Fabrizio Miccoli had already failed to connect with one inviting low ball from Simão when Caldwell, conscious of Nuno Gomes coming in behind him, turned Nélson's deep cross past Artur Boruc.
Things went from bad to worse for Celtic, and Caldwell in particular, in the 22nd minute. The Scotland centre-half misjudged the flight of Quim's kick upfield, allowing the ball to deflect off him and into the path of Nuno Gomes who controlled on his chest before finishing gleefully past Boruc for his first UEFA Champions League goal in almost eight years. Celtic sought to respond and, five minutes later, Quim made amends for his failure to clear a corner as he blocked Stephen Pearson's follow-up drive.
Pearson had now switched roles with Shaun Maloney, coming in from the left flank to bring greater physical presence to a Celtic attack still missing the injured Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. With Benfica defending nervously, Pearson threatened again five minutes before the break as he surged into the box on a one-two with Kenny Miller but, with red shirts converging on the ball, he sent a hurried shot past the near post.
Benfica did not sit back after the interval but pushed for a third. Shortly before the hour Nélson and Nuno Gomes worked the ball in from the right to Miccoli, whose close-range drive was charged down. Although Quim had to stop Caldwell's overhead effort looping under the crossbar, Benfica still looked the likelier scorers and made it three with 14 minutes remaining as Karyaka converted Nélson's low centre soon after coming on for his UEFA Champions League debut with the Portuguese club. Boruc then denied Nuno Gomes a fourth goal and ensured, curiously, that all four European Cup ties between these sides have ended with the same 3-0 scoreline.