Celtic into knockout phase with win over Man Utd

Updated: November 21, 2006, 6:20 PM ET
Reuters

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By Kenny MacDonald

GLASGOW, Nov 21 - Celtic won a nerve-shredding Champions League clash 1-0 against Manchester United on Tuesday with a spectacular freekick from Shunsuke Nakamura to seal a place in the knockout phase for the first time.

Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc brilliantly saved a last minute penalty by Louis Saha to ensure their safe passage and match the feat of arch-rivals Rangers who last season became the first Scottish club to reach the last 16.

"I don't believe it, there must be a rule that says we don't go through," said delighted Celtic manager Gordon Strachan. "I'll wake up tomorrow and find that someone has scored an extra goal against us somewhere."

With one round of matches to play, Celtic have 9 points from 5 games and are through because of their better record against United, who also have 9. Benfica are third with 7 points after beating visitors FC Copenhagen 3-1.

United manager Alex Ferguson told reporters: "It's just the shock of losing, to be honest, that is hard to take. If you don't take your chances then you are left with egg on your face which we were tonight."

The visitors had dominated the first half without producing a real threat on goal in a tense 45 minutes in the Group F collision.

FIRST CHANCE

Saha had the first chance after three minutes when he caught Celtic captain Neil Lennon in possession on the edge of the box but Boruc saved the Frenchman's low drive from 20 metres.

Ryan Giggs swung a corner out to the edge of the penalty area after 30 minutes for Wayne Rooney to crack in a volley which zipped just beyond the left post before Bobo Balde bungled at the back and let in Cristiano Ronaldo.

The defender lost his footing and the ball on the left and the Portuguese midfielder surged into the box only for Polish keeper Boruc to dive to his left and touch away the fierce low drive seven minutes from the interval.

But a minute later Celtic produced their first chance when Polish forward Maciej Zurawski finished a pounding run down the right by whipping the ball over to the back of the box where Thomas Gravesen headed across goal and just past the right post.

The lacklustre match exploded in the second half when, firstly, Saha took a leisurely shot at goal from 12 metres after believing he was offside and Boruc clawed the ball away as the Frenchman clutched his head.

Then with nine minutes left Japanese midfielder Nakamura curled in a fabulous 30-metre freekick from out on the right into the top corner of the net for the opener.

In the final minute substitute Shaun Maloney was ruled to have handled a freekick by Ronaldo and United were awarded a hotly disputed penalty. Before the kick could be taken Neil Lennon was booked for booting the ball off the penalty spot.

Saha's knee-high shot towards the left side of the net was superbly turned away by Boruc to secure Celtic's victory.

"It was just instinct," Boruc told Reuters. "I was lucky to save it and more lucky to get two hands on it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index