Champions League: Barca, United manage great escapes

Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring his goal in Manchester United's Champions League match against Braga. (Getty)

Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring his goal in Manchester United's Champions League match against Braga. (Getty)

Barcelona and fellow former Champions League winners Manchester United had to draw on all their class on Tuesday to come from behind and claim home wins against Celtic and Braga respectively.

Barcelona's last gasp 2-1 win over the Scottish champions Celtic and United's 3-2 victory over Braga on Tuesday, which saw the English giants become only the second side to come back from a 2-0 deficit twice and win – the other being Arsenal – sees both of them needing just a point from their next games to seal a place in the knockout stages.

Holders Chelsea, though, are going to have to battle hard to reach that stage after they came away 2-1 losers to an impressive Shakhtar Donetsk at their fortress in Ukraine.

Shakhtar top that group on seven points while Chelsea's loss was slightly offset as Juventus had to come from behind to draw 1-1 in Copenhagen against Danish minnows Nordsjaelland for whom Mikkel Beckmann's goal was their first in the competition.

Celtic had taken the lead through an own goal by Javier Mascherano – completing a wretched few days for the Argentinian who was sent off at the weekend – but a superb goal at the end of the first-half by Andrés Iniesta levelled matters.

Despite a splendid rearguard action throughout the second half Celtic succumbed to a goal by Jordi Alba – his first at the Nou Camp – in the fourth minute of time added on as Barca recorded their 100th win in Champions League competition.

'Deserved' win
Victory also saw Barcelona break their club record for an unbeaten run at home extending the present one to 18, with their last defeat coming against Rubin Kazan in October 2009.

"I think that our win was deserved," said Alba, who moved to Barcelona in the summer from Valencia.

"The strength of this [Barcelona] team is that it resists till the end ... A match lasts for 90 minutes and that is the length of time that Barca spends trying to score."

Lennon said he couldn't be prouder of his side and relished the chance of a second go at Barcelona in Glasgow in a fortnight.

"They were brave and stuck with what I asked them to do," he said.

"They defended brilliantly and at times we looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Everybody had written us off but I knew of the quality of the character in the team.
I look forward to doing it again in a couple of weeks."

Spartak Moscow's first win
Despite Celtic's bravura performance they only have a one point advantage over Spartak Moscow, who grabbed their first win of the campaign after two defeats with a 2-1 home win over Benfica.

"We scored only twice but played with commitment both in attack and in defence giving our rivals almost no chance to play to their strengths," said Spartak's Spanish coach Unai Emery.

"I'm happy both with the result and our performance today."

United had to rely on a brace from the outstanding Javi Hernandez and a messy one from Jonny Evans to storm back and take the three points after their fragile defence, which saw Rio Ferdinand rested, had conceded two early goals to Alan.

United manager Alex Ferguson said he was getting used to having to rely on his offensive players to get the side back into contention in matches.

Bad starts for United
"It's been the story of our season at home, starting badly and losing goals," Ferguson said.

"We have had to rescue games and it is the front players doing that. We played some terrific football tonight but it is a concern losing the goals."

Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo accepted that his side had not performed well enough against a classy Shakhtar side.

"The Champions League always throws up difficult and competitive matches," he said.

"You only have to look at the results in our group to see that ... But we should have done better as a team. We still have a really good chance to qualify but it is imperative we win our next match against Shakhtar." – AFP

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening.  Read more from Pirate Irwin

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