Aalborg BK came from behind in stirring fashion to defeat Celtic FC 2-1 and secure both third place in Group E and UEFA Cup football at the expense of their visitors.
Celtic took a deserved lead when midfielder Barry Robson, who had missed a penalty when the sides met in Glasgow on Matchday 1, headed in on 53 minutes but were pegged back when Caca equalised with a shot which took a deflection off Stephen McManus 17 minutes from time. The 87th-minute winner also took a final touch off a Celtic player as a Glenn Loovens clearance bounced back into his own net via the legs of Gary Caldwell, guaranteeing AaB third place behind Manchester United FC and Villarreal CF – and knocking Celtic out of Europe.
Celtic begun without influential winger Aiden McGeady, who failed to prove that he had fully recovered from a calf injury during training the previous evening, but did not allow that setback to affect them and instead created the first chance of the contest on six minutes. Shunsuke Nakamura showed great vision to play a delightful low cross into the area where Georgios Samaras just failed to make contact with the ball. Nakamura himself had a clearer opportunity to score three minutes later when the Japanese latched on to a through-pass by Scott McDonald, only to shoot high and wide with only Karim Zaza to beat.
AaB were struggling to assert themselves and did not look like a team on an eight-match unbeaten run. Their midfield pairing of Thomas Augustinussen and Kasper Risgård could not maintain possession and the hosts were reduced to hitting long balls up to lone striker Jeppe Curth, which Celtic's centre-back pairing of McManus and Loovens swept up with ease. Perhaps not surprisingly then, it was from a set-piece which the Danish side first tested Artur Boruc, the Celtic goalkeeper having to stretch fully to tip Michael Jakobsen's header from a Thomas Enevoldsen corner over the bar.
Samaras heads over
That opportunity did not signal a swing in the momentum of the match, however, and it was Celtic who ended the half the strongest, creating yet another great chance to take the lead when Nakamura whipped a free-kick to the back post which the unmarked Samaras headed wide. Robson showed the Greece striker how to do it with eight minutes of the second half played, expertly directing Mark Wilson's left-wing cross beyond Zaza from close to the penalty spot. Caldwell almost doubled the advantage on 64 minutes, firing straight at the AaB goalkeeper following an excellent surge into the box.
Against the run of the play, AaB equalised on 73 minutes when Caca picked up the ball just outside the Celtic box and drilled a shot which deflected off McManus, looped over Boruc and into the net. The Polish international was also powerless to keep out the winner, as Loovens' clearance from Andreas Johansson's centre ricocheted into the goal off Caldwell to extend Celtic's winless away run in this competition to 20 games.