By Alex O'Henley at Celtic Park
Celtic FC take a slender 1-0 lead into the return leg of their fourth round UEFA Cup tie with FC Barcelona after an absorbing fixture. A goal by Alan Thompson on 59 minutes was decisive, but by that stage three players had received red cards - two for the visitors, and two during half-time.
Home manager Martin O'Neill sprang a surprise by naming 20-year-old Craig Beattie in his starting lineup, the youngster being handed his European debut as a replacement for the injured Chris Sutton. Bobo Balde, another injury doubt for the home side, was declared fit enough to take his place at the heart of the Celtic defence.
Barcelona started without Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Edgar Davids due to injury and ineligibility respectively, making way for Gabri García and Thiago Motta. A minute's silence was observed before the game and both teams wore black armbands as a mark of respect for the victims of the bomb attacks in Madrid today, and the Celtic fans gave a particularly emotional rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.
Barcelona forced two early corners, and Oleguer shot over, but it was Celtic who dominated the first 20 minutes. Didier Agathe raced down and his deep centre was cleared by Carles Puyol at the expense of a corner. Thompson swung it in left-footed but Balde's header was blocked.
Chances at both ends
Having seen off the pressure Barcelona then started to make progress into Celtic territory and on 22 minutes a good passing movement culminated in a shot from Phillip Cocu that drifted just wide of the left upright. Their one-touch passing movements were a joy to behold and two minutes later Saviola had a great opportunity, but with only Robert Douglas to beat his shot screwed wide. Soon after Ronaldinho's effort met a similar fate.
A scuffle erupted in the tunnel at half-time and as a result Celtic goalkeeper Douglas and Barcelona midfield player Motta were sent-off. It meant that O'Neill had to throw 18-year-old custodian David Marshall - whose senior career had not yet passed 100 minutes before tonight - into the fray in place of Beattie.
Third red card
Saviola had an early opportunity to test the rookie as on 47 minutes he won a race with Jackie McNamara into the box but dragged his shot wide of Marshall. It proved to be the last contribution from the Argentinian who was given a red card a minute later after aiming an apparent kick at Thompson.
It was ten against nine now and Celtic sought to capitalise on their one-man advantage and just before the hour they went ahead. A high ball into the box from the right was headed down by Henrik Larsson into the path of Thompson and he smashed it past Víctor Valdés.
Visitors hold on
Celtic pushed for a second goal and on 80 minutes a shot by Larsson drifted narrowly wide with Valdés beaten. By now Barcelona were happy to leave Glasgow with a narrow defeat following a tough encounter, for a return on 25 March for which there will be four suspensions: Douglas and Balde for Celtic, Motta and Saviola for the Camp Nou side.
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