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UEFA Champions League

Celtic Park (ATT 58,589) 14th September 2004 - Kick off 19:45 Ref: M Merk

Celtic Celtic vs Barcelona Barcelona

Celtic 1


Men against Bhoys for Barca

By Mark Buckingham.   Last Updated: 14/09/04 10:35pm

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Henrik Larsson returned to haunt Celtic as he put the seal on Barcelona's 3-1 victory at Parkhead in their opening UEFA Champions League group fixture.

The Swede, who is still adored in Glasgow, scored the third goal for his new side as Barcelona taught Celtic a lesson for much of the contest.

Deco scored in the first half and, after David Marshall saved Ronaldinho's penalty, Chris Sutton briefly restored parity before Ludovic Giuly's deflected shot and Larsson's simply-taken goal condemned Celtic to defeat.

The Scottish champions were hopelessly outclassed in the first half and could easily have been down to ten men within the opening three minutes.

After John Hartson had been booked after 70 seconds for a late tackle on Rafael Marquez, his team-mate Alan Thompson escaped any form of punishment for a horrendous lunge on Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

Barcelona dominated the opening 45 minutes with their pace and skill far too potent for the hosts, who required Marshall to rush out quickly to deny the marauding right back Belletti.

Ronaldinho then flashed a shot wide before the Brazilian linked up with Samuel Eto'o for the Cameroon international to lay the ball in to van Bronckhorst's path but, as it would later transpire, not for the first time Marshall was on hand to thwart the visitors.

The Catalan titans deservedly moved in front on 20 minutes when Deco capitalised on poor play from The Bhoys to feed Ronaldinho. He returned the favour and Deco unleashed a ferocious shot in to the far corner of the net.

Frank Rijkaard's side scented further goals with Giuly pulling the ball back for Ronaldinho, only for Marshall to save and Xavi to smash the rebound in to the side-netting.

Juninho and Marquez were both booked as tempers regularly soared towards boiling point while Stanislav Varga planted a free header over the crossbar.

Barcelona could have scored twice more before the interval as Giuly was denied by Marshall after a neat touch from Xavi and the same two players were involved again moments later.

Xavi produced a wonderfully perceptive pass to send Giuly scampering through and round Marshall but Bobo Balde, who was not just holding the defence together, but the entire team, blocked the Frenchman's shot.

Martin O'Neill flung on Sutton for Juninho at half time and that, coupled with a penalty incident, momentarily turned the match around in the second half.

In the 55th minute, Celtic should have had another man sent off when Jackie McNamara bundled over Giuly fractionally inside the box.

The Bhoys captain only received a caution and, from the resultant penalty, Marshall produced a magnificent sprawling save to push away Ronaldinho's spot kick.

Xavi volleyed narrowly wide before Sutton, who had rejuvenated the home side, levelled the scores just before the hour. The largely ineffective Henri Camara darted down the right and delivered a cross which Sutton crashed in to the roof of the net at the far post.

The visitors suddenly became ragged as Rijkaard introduced Celtic legend Larsson to a noisy reception in front of the Parkhead faithful who still idolise the Swedish striker.

With Barca on the back foot, Stilian Petrov almost put Celtic in to an unlikely lead when crisply volleying goalwards but Victor Valdes was alert to tip the ball over.

But, after weathering the storm, Barca forged back ahead on 78 minutes after a slick move started by Larsson. He played in Belletti who in turn teed up Giuly and his shot deflected off McNamara and beyond the stranded Marshall.

Returning hero Larsson then rubbed salt in to the wounds with a third goal after pouncing on a dreadful error from Thompson. The midfielder tried to head the ball back to Marshall but Larsson nipped in and finished with aplomb and celebrated in subdued fashion.

Celtic almost dragged themselves back in to the game when Petrov's fierce free kick was pushed out by Valdes and Balde was offside when he finished off the rebound.

Sutton glanced a corner over the bar late on but it would have been nothing more than a consolation and, in truth, that was all The Bhoys would have deserved.

Click here for player ratings

Team NameCelticBarcelona
Shots on target ( Inc Goals )68
Shots off Target (inc woodwork)46
Blocked Shots23
Corners Won58
Total Fouls Conceded2821
Yellow Cards31
Red Cards00



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