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Zaza resists Celtic in AaB shutout

Published: Thursday 18 September 2008, 0.34CET
Celtic FC 0-0 Aalborg BK
Goalkeeper Karim Zaza saved a spot-kick as the Danish visitors held out with ten men to earn a valuable point on their return to the group stage.
by Barry Johnston
from Celtic Park
Zaza resists Celtic in AaB shutout
Barry Robson's penalty is saved by AaB's Karim Zaza ©Getty Images
Published: Thursday 18 September 2008, 0.34CET

Zaza resists Celtic in AaB shutout

Celtic FC 0-0 Aalborg BK
Goalkeeper Karim Zaza saved a spot-kick as the Danish visitors held out with ten men to earn a valuable point on their return to the group stage.

Celtic FC were left to rue missed opportunities as they were forced to settle for a share of the points against a determined Aalborg BK side in UEFA Champions League Group E.

Missed penalty
The Scottish champions' best chance came from the penalty spot on the half-hour, but AaB goalkeeper Karim Zaza saved Barry Robson's effort. The 33-year-old custodian produced further heroics late in the second half, pulling off a flying save to tip over an expertly dispatched Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick. While this was AaB's first ever away point in European football's élite club competition, the draw signalled the end of Celtic's 100 per cent home group-stage record stretching back to 2005/06.

Early pressure
The hosts dictated the early exchanges, with AaB content to sit deep and absorb considerable pressure. However, it took Celtic fully eleven minutes to engineer their first serious attempt on the visitors' goal. Greek international Georgios Samaras spun past Kasper Risgård on the right wing and curled a left-footed, 22-metre shot a fraction over the crossbar. AaB, unshaken in the cauldron-like atmosphere of Celtic Park, withstood the initial onslaught and were soon to counter.

Visitors take heart
On 13 minutes, Michael Jakobsen drove a powerful free-kick a metre wide from the fringe of Celtic's penalty area and, 60 seconds later, the Danish titleholders should have taken the lead. Jeppe Curth, released by a wonderfully accurate long pass by Risgård, burst through on goal and shot low under the hulking frame of Celtic keeper Artur Boruc, only for the ball to squirm wide of the target. With 30 minutes played, though, AaB's good work looked set to be undone when Celtic winger Shaun Maloney turned Steve Olfers in the box and was tripped by the defender's trailing leg. Referee Matteo Trefoloni pointed to the spot, yet AaB survived as Zaza dived to block Robson's penalty kick.

Breakthrough elusive
Celtic began the second period showing the same intent with which they started the first, but still the breakthrough eluded them. As in the opening half, Samaras was the locals' chief source of inspiration and his sorties into the right and left channels stretched the AaB defence to bursting point. Time after time, though, the disciplined Danish rearguard doused the Celtic threat before it materialised – hunting in packs, Bruce Rioch's men closed down every ball. The frustrated home support chanted for the introduction of Aiden McGeady and, on 63 minutes, manager Gordon Strachan granted their wish, bringing on the flamboyant Republic of Ireland winger to replace Scott McDonald.

Red card
Samaras appeared poised to finally give Celtic the lead their possession warranted 13 minutes from time when he charged through on goal, only to be brought down in a clear goalscoring position – a challenge which earned defender Michael Beauchamp a red card. However, Zaza brilliantly kept out the resulting free-kick from Nakamura, and it was the closest the Glasgow club would come to winning the game despite being willed to victory by their fans.

Last updated: 18/09/08 4.19CET

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