Ex-Celtic midfielder relives 'tremendous' UCL night at Paradise

By Lewis Laird

September 12, 2022

Former Celtic midfielder Massimo Donati has relived the moment he scored a dramatic late winner against Shakhtar Donetsk in 2007.

The 41-year-old, who now is managing in the third tier of Italian football, spent three years at Parkhead between 2007-2009.

To this day, Donati remains a follower of Celtic and has previously admitted he would love to return to the club one day in a coaching capacity.

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

During his first season at the club working under Gordon Strachan, the former AC Milan midfielder helped the Hoops reach the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Bhoys achieved some famous victories over the then-current holders of the competition AC Milan, defeating the side led by Carlo Ancelotti 2-1.

Within that group, the Hoops also picked up wins at home against Benfica and Shakhtar Donestk, helping them through to the knockout rounds of the world’s most prestigious club tournament.

Donati had a hand in all eight Champions League fixtures that season. Particularly in the 2-1 win over Shakhtar, where the Italian scored a dramatic late winner to secure all three points.

Of course, there are similarities in this season’s UEFA Champions League group, with the Hoops once again taking on Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

Speaking in an interview ahead of the game this midweek, Donati relived that special moment at Paradise when the two teams last faced off in this competition.

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

He said [Daily Record]: “I remember everything about that night.

“It’s 15 years ago already but fresh in my memory. Even now, sometimes I go on YouTube and watch the goal, just to see the atmosphere and celebrations.

“I started the game on the bench and wasn’t too happy. But I came on after just 16 minutes for Lee Naylor when we were down 1-0.

“We scored to make it 1-1 but it was a tough game. Thankfully, I got a really important goal. The game was nearly finished. I was so tired but I thought: ‘I have to try and get into the box.’

“Aiden McGeady gave me a good ball and I took a lucky touch. It wasn’t a fantastic shot – but it was in the net. For the next 15 to 20 seconds, I don’t understand what happened. My mind was gone. Have I ever felt anything similar in my career? Not like that.

“That goal was so important for Celtic. And when a player who doesn’t normally get goals, scores, it’s a special feeling.

“But that was in the Champions League, in the last seconds, at Celtic Park – so it was tremendous. I had a few good goals in my career that gave me good memories. But none like that.

“In one game, Bari beat Juventus 1-0, and I scored in front of 60,000 people in the stadium. That was a very good moment. But it wasn’t in the Champions League.”

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Celtic will be looking to create further special Champions League memories when they meet Shakhtar this week.

As the two sides prepare to face off once again, Ange Postecoglou’s squad will be looking to create more special memories for the Celtic support, like Donati’s late winner.

Should the Hoops hope to progress from this group, the games against the Ukrainian side and RB Leipzig are likely to be crucial in gaining any success.

Having only achieved qualification for the round of 16 in the Champions League on three occasions, I am sure we will all be hoping that facing Shakhtar in this group can be a good omen, just as it was in 2007/08.

It should prove to be a difficult task, taking on a good European side. But, it should be one that Postecoglou and his players are really looking forward to.

In other news, Paul Lambert details the importance of Celtic’s away visits in the Champions League.