Celtic FC 1-0 Valencia CF (Aggregate: 1-1 - Valencia win 5-4 on penalties)
Valencia CF progressed to the fourth round of the UEFA Cup after edging out Celtic FC on penalties in a thrilling match at Celtic Park stadium.
Last season’s UEFA Champions League runners-up triumphed 5-4 in sudden death in the shoot-out but had to survive constant pressure from their hosts in Thursday night’s third round second-leg tie. Henrik Larsson had pulled Celtic level on aggregate with a goal just before half-time but Celtic could not find the crucial second.
Miguel Ferrer was the hero for the Spanish side converting the decisive penalty in the shoot-out after Joos Valgaeren had seen his effort saved by Santiago Cañizares in the Valencia goal. It was a cruel blow for the Scottish team who had been roared on throughout the game by their passionate fans. Vicente Rodríguez and Roberto Ayala missed for Valencia, while Larsson and Stilian Petrov were the other Celtic players not to score from the spot.
Both sides had done their utmost to win the game before the dramatic finish. In the first half Larsson and Chris Sutton wasted good opportunities while at the other end Ayala went close with a free-kick and Pablo Aimar had a header saved superbly by Robert Douglas for Celtic.
Larsson eventually broke the deadlock just before the interval to become Celtic’s all-time top scorer in Europe with 17 goals, one better than Jimmy Johnstone. The ball broke free to the Swedish striker and he fired the ball first time past Cañizares and into the bottom corner.
Celtic always dangerous
The second half saw Valencia battle back but Celtic held firm and always looked dangerous. They remained solid into extra time and nearly scored what could have been the winner, when Larsson had a shot cleared off the line by Mauricio Pellegrino. Substitute John Hartson was also unlucky with an effort just before the end of the extra 30 minutes.
The manner of the defeat was hard to take for Celtic coach Martin O’Neill. "It was an immense performance," he said. "We deserved to go through but penalties are a lottery, it it is part of the rules and there is nothing you can do.
'We outplayed them'
"We played against a side who have been in the last two Champions League finals and we outplayed them. The players were very disappointed, not at the performance but just because of the way it ended."
'Fans make them stronger'
Valencia coach Rafael Benítez paid tribute to the Celtic support and said they could be a major factor in the club’s progress. "Celtic can become a force in Europe because the fans make them stronger," he said. "The best part about the match was the fans."
'A tough time'
He added that he was always confident in the penalty shoot-out, and refuted suggestions the better team had been knocked out. "We went through a very tough time here in Glasgow but people must remember that Celtic went through a very tough time in the Mestalla stadium," Benítez said.
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