Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

'World -class' Gary Hooper sets up Celtic for daunting Barcelona double

Spartak Moscow Rafael Carioca, right, fight for the ball with Celtic FC Gary Hooper during their Champions League Group G match in Moscow, Tuesday Oct. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

Kris Commons believes his Celtic team-mate Gary Hooper has great potential after the striker marked his first Champions League start with a goal in their 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow on Tuesday.



Hooper's first-time finish set Celtic up for their first away victory in the group stages of the competition. Georgios Samaras, who was making his first start since recovering from an elbow injury sustained on international duty with Greece last month, scored the late winner.



The Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, described Hooper's performance as "world class" after his striker scored his seventh goal in four games. He also set up Celtic's second, and his movement and alertness to receive a short free-kick paved the way for Emilio Izaguirre to cross for the last-minute winner by Samaras. Hooper's pace also led to a red card for Juan Insaurralde when Spartak were 2-1 ahead.



"When he [Gary] puts his mind to it, he can be anything," said Commons. "He has great movement, he is a natural goalscorer, he leads the line well and he is so strong. Even if his marker is quicker than him, he puts his body in positions and gets away from him and he has vision as well. Not many strikers have got great vision but he always seems to set me up for goals as well, which is good."



Commons says Celtic's chances of reaching the Champions League knockout stages are "a lot better than they were before the Spartak game" but he is aware that the Scottish champions, second in Group G with four points from two games, face a double-header against leaders Barcelona.



"Realistically, a point from both would be magnificent," he said. "They are the bookies' favourites to win the trophy and rightly so, they have the best team and the best squad in the world. For us to get anything off them... it would be a dream come true. We will probably need some luck.



"I think it will come down to our home games and trying to nick points off Benfica," Commons added. "But you know how hard it is to get a result away from home in the Champions League and for us to produce that against Spartak after going 2-1 down is tremendous. It is a great feeling and the lads are buzzing."



Meanwhile Charlton's chairman, Michael Slater, has lodged a formal complaint about Spanish police after revealing that he was knocked unconscious before last month's Champions League game between Real Madrid and Manchester City.



Slater was caught up in an incident close to Madrid's Bernabeu stadium in which police wielding batons allegedly charged City supporters in an unprovoked attack before kick off. As well as being knocked out, Slater, a Manchester City fan, was left with minor head injuries and severe bruising. He has reported it to the head of security at the Football Association and wants the matter to go to Uefa.



Slater told Charlton's official website: "I can confirm that I was assaulted by at least one police officer in Spain without any provocation at all. I have been in contact with the FA, and I am expecting them to take the matter up formally with Uefa."

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