PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
UEFA Cup Thursday December 6th
Valencia won 5:4 on penalties
1:0 Larsson (45)
Ref: Knud Fisker
Celtic: Douglas; Valgaeren, Balde, Mjallby; Petta, Petrov, Lennon, Lambert, Moravcik (Sylla 55 - Hartson 110); Larsson, Sutton
Ouch! This is hard to take. On the one hand we've taken a team who have made it to the final of the Champions League in the previous two seasons to penalties. But on the other hand no one remember the losers, and we're out of Europe before Christmas again.
The final outcome apart this was one of the great European nights. An atmosphere that could only inspire, although any suggestion that it might get to the Valencia players was complete rubbish; Nou Camp and Bernabau aren't noted for their church like calm.
After the stunning effect he had in the Juve game Lubo starts the game, but the Spaniards seem to have him rumbled. Whereas Juve gave him some room, Valencia keep tight on him all night. Contest of the night though was Balde versus Carew, a true clash of the titans. Only once did Carew come close, with a bicycle kick in the first half that shaved the post. That apart there was a lot of bumping and barging between the two, but very few fouls, no diving or gestures to the ref, and at the end neither man had been booked.
After the mauling we took in the second half in Spain we had every reason to be a bit nervous, but it didn't show. The only thing missing was the finish. Larsson contrived to miss an almost empty net before finally scoring with an unbelievable shot seconds before half time. Joos played the ball through, Larsson was almost at the far corner of the box yet he still managed to curl it round Canizares and inside the post.
Level, and we had the momentum. However you don't get to two successive Champions League finals without having a fair degree of calm under pressure. We had a couple of sights at goal, but they kept it tight.
Extra time was called for, but we still couldn't get through so it came down to penalties.
You could say that at 2-1 up, with Douglas having just saved their second kick and Larsson about to take his we should go through here, but Henrik missed the target. So did Stan. The exit door loomed large, but Rab Douglas again came through with a great save. And so to Joos, the man who keeps the huns out, and recent goal scoring hero. He hit the target, he also hit Canizares. Fortunately the keeper had been a bit quick off his line so we had another chance (we could actually have changed the kicker). Unfortunately he did exactly the same thing, and with Rab unable to pull three rabbits out of his bunnet we shuffled out of Europe again.
Still, if at the start of the season someone had offered you a European run that included victories over Ajax, Rosenborg, Porto, Juve and Valencia you'd have bitten their hand off. And if nothing else has been achieved then at least Celtic Park is once again a venue that will cause continental visitors to be nervous.