Celtic, Benfica scoreless in Champs League opener

BY foxsports • September 19, 2012

Celtic returned to the Champions League after a four-year absence with a lackluster 0-0 draw at home to Benfica on Wednesday.

In a Group G match of few clear-cut chances at Parkhead, the Portuguese visitors had the better of them with Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster producing great saves to deny Rodrigo and Ezequiel Garay.

The Scottish champions failed to muster a decent chance but at least proved hard to break down, giving them some hope of qualifying from a group that is set to be dominated by competition favorite Barcelona.

''I think Benfica went into the game heavy favourites but I don't think you could call the game tonight,'' Celtic manager Neil Lennon said. ''I think a draw was probably a fair result.

''It shows that we have a bit of depth to the squad and can compete at this level.''

Celtic's domestic form has been dire by its standards, slumping to fifth place in the defense of its Scottish league title after winning just two of its opening five matches.

Benfica, quarterfinalist last season and a two-time European champion in the 1960s, would therefore have fancied its chances of grabbing an early away win but opportunities were hard to come by.

''Celtic are a hard team who play very aggressive football with high balls, but defensively we were very good and victory would have been deserved,'' Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said.

No goalkeeper had to make a save until the 32nd minute - when Forster blocked Rodrigo's shot - and the match continued in a similar vein after the break, with Benfica's technically gifted midfielders finding little space.

Nicolas Gaitan's goalbound shot was blocked before Garay saw his header from a corner well saved by Forster.

''We were committed and played with real zest and no fear against a class side,'' Lennon said. ''There were 10 guys out there making their Champions League debut against a very experienced Champions League side so I am very proud of them.''

Second place is seemingly all that is on offer in the group, even though Barcelona needed two late goals to win 3-2 at home Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.