Brave Bhoys bow out of Europe
By Alex Livie. Last Updated: 02/08/05 9:32pm
Celtic bowed out of Europe, but they saved some face with a spirited 4-0 win over Artmedia Bratislava.
The Bhoys were thumped 5-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League qualifying tie and an exit seemed inevitable.
No side had ever overcome such a deficit in European competition, but no one appeared to have told the Celtic players as they produced a stirring display to claim a 4-0 win on the night.
Alan Thompson, John Hartson, Stephen McManus and Craig Beattie gave the Parkhead faithful hope, but the damage done in the first leg proved too big an obstacle to overcome and Artmedia held on for a 5-4 aggregate win.
Gordon Strachan admitted the first leg was his worst night in football, but his players went some way to redeeming their reputation and gave hope for the remainder of the domestic season.
Celtic were intent on forcing the pace and Hartson had a hand in playing in Ross Wallace and Maciej Zurawski for early sighters, but both failed to find their range.
The Parkhead crowd were just starting to get a little restless when Zurawski produced a moment of magic, turning superbly in the box after being played in by the impressive Hartson, to win a penalty.
Zurawski's drag back foxed Ondel Debnar and the defender hauled down the forward, leaving Alan Thompson with the task of slotting home from the spot to spark the tie into life.
Artmedia were rarely seen as an attacking force, although they had a couple of chances to put the tie beyond Celtic before the interval.
A lapse in concentration from Paul Telfer presented Branislav Obzera with an opening, but he failed to attack the chance with any conviction and Artur Boruc was able to smother his weak effort.
The second opening fell to Juraj Halenar, but the star of the first leg dragged his shot tamely wide of goal.
The visitors appeared to have weathered the storm, but Celtic made them pay for playing for over five minutes with ten men, due to a player having had his shirt damaged, as Hartson lashed home from the edge of the box following a brave header from Wallace.
The second goal gave Celtic real belief and they added a third ten minutes after the break as Stephen McManus netted on his European debut.
Shaun Maloney did superbly to retrieve a deep corner and his centre allowed McManus to stoop low and head home with the aid of a deflection.
Hartson was proving a thorn in the side of Artmedia and the powerful Welshman almost produced a stunning goal, but his volley from a sitting position just flew over the bar.
Roared on by over 40,000 supporters, Celtic created a string of chances, with Maloney seeing an effort saved by Juraj Cobej, Craig Beattie heading against the post and Stilian Petrov going within a whisker of netting a bicycle kick from 18 yards.
Beattie's radar may have been just awry earlier in the piece, but he made no mistake eight minutes from time as he headed home with aplomb following a superb cross from Mohamed Camara.
Celtic pressed forward in search of the goal which would have forced extra time, but they failed to find a fifth and bowed out of Europe to the Slovakian minnows.