Glasgow: Kris Commons smashed home a controversial late penalty to earn Celtic a 2-1 victory over Spartak Moscow, booking his team a place in the Champions League's knockout stage for the first time since 2008. The Scottish champions started the match level on points with Benfica in Group G but leapfrogged the Portuguese side, which could only draw 0-0 at Barcelona in the final round of group matches.
"The players have been magnificent - it is a monumental achievement on their behalf," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon, whose team beat Barcelona at home earlier in the group stage. With its match standing at 0-0 after 81 minutes, Celtic were heading out of the competition, only for Giorgos Samaras to fall easily under the challenge of Kirill Kombarov. Lennon turned away as Commons ran up for the resulting penalty, which went in off the crossbar to spark mass celebrations at Celtic Park.
"I didn't watch the penalty because I've watched our last couple and we've missed them," Lennon said. Already-eliminated Spartak had canceled out Gary Hooper's well-taken 21st-minute opener when Ari clipped home a lovely finish six minutes before halftime. Samaras hit the post before Commons' goal. Spartak midfielder Kim Kallstrom was sent off late on for two bookable offenses, his second resulted in Commons being taken off on a stretcher.
Celtic's progression is just reward following that stunning win over Barca, having nearly beaten the Spanish giants in the Camp Nou. The tally of 10 points, three less than Barcelona, equals Rangers' record for most points gained by a Scottish team in a Champions League group. "At home we can beat anyone - we showed that against Barca and tonight," Hooper said. "We have to take it game by game."