It took a last-gasp dodgy penalty to get them there, but they got there! Celtic managed to make it through into the knockout stages of the Champions League even though their group contained the best side in Europe, as well as the Champions of Portugal and the Champions of Russia! Much of their fortune comes down to the resilient performances they put up against Barcelona, whom they managed to get points off – I dare say we’ll see other teams later in the competition fare much, much worse than those honest footballers in green and white hoops!
But whilst Celtic followed Manchester United and Arsenal into the Champions League proper, the two clubs who have spent more than anyone else in the world over the last few seasons were left at the wayside. Chelsea came back emphatically with a 6-1 win that will hopefully stop the A4 banners at Stamford Bridge (for a few weeks anyway!), but crashed out anyway because of the abject performances in previous matches. To win by that margin without Terry and Lampard either suggests that Chelsea have found new heart and drive, or that the opposition were spectacularly poor. (It was Nordsjaelland by the way…)
Manchester City failed to win any of their matches in what was admittedly a tough group. With the millions of pounds spent on players, you would expect better. There is no shame in losing to a Ronaldo-inspired Real Madrid, but losing / drawing with low-budget teams like Ajax and Dortmund (especially at home) just isn’t good enough.
It’s the second season in a row that City have crashed out, and it means that their UEFA coefficient isn’t looking great – they have no dropped out of the seeded 16 teams, so can expect to be back in at the deep-end next season, when they will have two top seeds to fight for a spot with. Could be Barcelona, Inter, Bayern, etc etc. Good luck with that!
Anyway, the night was Celtic’s, and I look forward to seeing how they get on!