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Stubborn Celtic silence Barça

Published: Friday 26 March 2004, 0.50CET
FC Barcelona 0-0 Celtic FC (agg: 0-1) Celtic soak up intense pressure and book last-eight place.

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Published: Friday 26 March 2004, 0.50CET

Stubborn Celtic silence Barça

FC Barcelona 0-0 Celtic FC (agg: 0-1) Celtic soak up intense pressure and book last-eight place.

By Graham Hunter at the Camp Nou

Celtic FC registered one of the most significant results in their recent history to draw 0-0 in the Camp Nou and eliminate FC Barcelona from the UEFA Cup. Protecting a one-goal lead from Glasgow, Martin O'Neill's team made light work of defending for the full 90 minutes against a Barça side which played below par and created few clear-cut chances.

Early pressure
The home side had gone on the hunt from the first moment, using their three forwards, Luis García, Luis Enrique and Ronaldinho, much closer together than usual in the hope that Celtic would crack under early pressure.

Two debutants
However the visitors, despite having two players - David Marshall and John Kennedy - making their full European debuts, got off to an assured start. Inspired by at least 10,000 fans in the Camp Nou, Celtic settled to a decent rhythm of play, albeit in a 4-4-2 system which is not their norm.

Sutton superb
Chris Sutton, playing as a strike-partner for Henrik Larsson, did not take long to show why his presence is so important for Celtic. The Englishman was able to hold possession and, within ten minutes of the start, sent Larsson sprinting free of the Barça defence. As usual, the man in charge of saving the Catalan defence was Carles Puyol and he made up a great deal of ground to slide in a crucial tackle.

Puyol pain
The challenge denied the Swedish striker a clear goalscoring chance but it also cost Barça one of their most important players. Puyol was clearly hurt after his lunging tackle and although the treatment he received was enough to keep him playing in the short term, the central defender had to be substituted after 33 minutes.

Celtic content
Ronaldinho was surprised when his dart into the penalty box early in the first half did not bring the penalty he claimed after tumbling over Kennedy's well-timed tackle as Barça failed to make the most of their possession. Apart from very rare moves upfield, Martin O'Neill's side were content to close down the home team, often placing two markers on Ronaldinho, and they never looked out of their depth.

Rijkaard changes
By half-time the best that the home side had managed was a long distance Xavi Hernandéz shot, which Marshall fumbled but then gratefully clasped again. Celtic's stubbornness was so great that Frank Rijkaard wasted little time in making sweeping changes, watching just seven minutes of the second half before introducing Marc Overmars for Michael Reiziger and using the Dutch winger to test Didier Agathe and shackle the Frenchman's rumbustious running.

Instinctive effort
Rijkaard soon decided that Luis Enrique was not having his best night, despite the evident lack of clear chances he was given, and put on 20-year-old Sergio García instead. Suddenly Barça brightened up, despite Larsson's 61st-minute shot which Víctor Valdés saved, and Luis García curled an instinctive shot just wide of the post which would have beaten Marshall had it been 50 centimetres closer to the goal.

Late flurry
It took a splendid Agathe tackle on Ronaldinho, which brought both sets of fans to their feet, in order to prevent the Brazilian scoring in the 67th minute as the pressure mounted. But despite a flurry of chances late on, last season's beaten finalists held on to progress to the last eight, where they will meet Villarreal CF thanks to Alan Thompson's solitary first-leg goal at Celtic Park.

Last updated: 26/03/04 11.54CET

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