Thu, Nov 23, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Nakamura leaves Ferguson in shock

'BATTLE OF BRITAIN'Manchester United are in danger of another group stage exit after losing to Celtic, who reserved a second-round berth for the first time ever


Champions LeagueA terrific freekick by Shunsuke Nakamura gave Celtic an historic place in the Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday as they edged English giants Manchester United 1-0.

After what was dubbed as the "Battle of Britain," United's defeat means the two-time European Cup winners need a point in their final match at home to Benfica to avoid exiting the competition for a second successive year at the group stage.

They could and should have probably grabbed a draw as the match wound down, but French international striker Louis Saha -- who had earlier missed a golden scoring opportunity -- had a controversial penalty saved by Artur Boruc.

His former strike partner Ruud van Nistelrooy could sympathize as the Dutch striker, having brought Real Madrid level on terms with Lyon after being 2-0 down, missed a penalty as well, Gregory Coupet saving well.

Despite halting Lyon's 100 percent record in the group the result means the French giants will finish top of group E.

Van Nistelrooy's Dutch international colleague Rafael van der Vaart looked to have inflicted another blow to English soccer prestige -- having scored the late equalizer in the 1-1 friendly draw with England last Wednesday -- when he gave German strugglers SV Hamburg a fourth minute lead against Arsenal.

However last season's Champions League finalists reacted with three goals of their own, two late goals coming from Ivory Coast international defender Emmanuel Eboue and Julio Baptista, his first for the club, to send them to the top of the table.

A point against Porto in Portugal in a fortnight will see the Gunners through, however they will have to do without leading striker Thierry Henry as the Frenchman was booked and is suspended for the crucial match.

Porto did their hopes of progressing a huge favor with a 2-0 win in Moscow over CSKA Moscow, not the greatest fillip for the Russian side's coach Valery Gazzaev, whose younger brother Ruslan was killed in a car crash on Saturday, the same day CSKA claimed the title.

Another former champion AC Milan had another bad day at the office as they lost 1-0 away at AEK Athens -- Brazilian Julio Cesar scoring -- but got out of jail in terms of qualifying because Lille were held 2-2 at home to Anderlecht.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan and his Manchester United opposite number Sir Alex Ferguson were in shock for different reasons.

"I can't believe it, I will have to double check in the morning just to make sure," Strachan said.

Ferguson admitted that his side had failed to take advantage of all their dominance.

"To be honest, losing this game is very hard to take," he said. "I am in shock."

Ferguson will be hoping for a good performance in both halves against Benfica otherwise it will mean another European disappointment for the Red Devils.

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