GLASGOW - First-half goals from Shaun Maloney and Aiden McGeady handed Celtic their first win in nine Champions League matches when they beat 10-man Villarreal 2-0 in a Group E dead rubber on Wednesday. Celtic's win was in vain, however, as Villarreal had already qualified for the first knockout round while Wednesday's result could not prevent the Scottish club from finishing their campaign bottom of the group with just five points. Villarreal ended the group stage with nine points, one adrift of Manchester United. Manager Manuel Pellegrini dismissed suggestions his Villarreal side were "too relaxed" for the encounter. "We had three or four clear chances and the sending off and the (first) goal from the offside position really changed the game," Pellegrini told reporters. "I don't feel we have lost anything because we have qualified (for the last 16)." Maloney headed Celtic in front in the 14th minute after Uruguayan keeper Sebastian Viera let a cross from Mark Wilson slip through his fingers. Villarreal's hopes of salvaging anything from the match evaporated in the 36th minute when Mexican forward Guille Franco was shown a red card for aiming a blow at Celtic defender Gary Caldwell in an off-the-ball incident. McGeady cracked home a superb second in first-half stoppage time following a surging run from the halfway line. From the edge of the penalty area, he drilled a low shot beyond Viera and into the bottom right hand corner of the net. Villarreal came close to pulling a goal back midway through the second half with Mati Fernandez stabbing the ball narrowly wide of the left post. Nihat Kahveci also should have scored a couple of minutes later after he beat the offside trap but was denied brilliantly by Polish keeper Artur Boruc. Celtic's Greek striker Georgios Samaras was thwarted at the other end as keeper Viera bravely dived at his feet to smother the ball 16 metres out. "That game was ... to make us feel better about ourselves," Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said after his side snapped Villarreal's six-match unbeaten run in the competition.
10 December 2008
Get FourFourTwo interviews, features and fun in your inbox every week. For free!
Thank you for registering for our Newsletter
We will send regular updates on the ongoing FourFourTwo updates to the email address you have supplied.