Sat, Mar 27, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Rugged Celtic keeps Barcelona at bay

RESOLVE The Scottish champs drew on all their defensive know-how to repel wave after wave of Barcelona attacks and book a place in the UEFA quarters

REUTERS , Barcelona

A Celtic wall stops a free kick by Barcelona's Ronaldinho of Brazil, in the final minutes of their UEFA Cup fourth round second leg soccer match at the Nou Camp on Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Some outstanding goalkeeping from stand-in David Marshall and a gritty defensive display from his team mates helped Celtic book their place in the last eight of the UEFA Cup after a 0-0 draw at Barcelona on Thursday.

Leading 1-0 after a bad-tempered first leg in Glasgow, Celtic were put under severe pressure from the start, but 19-year-old Marshall produced a string of top-class saves to keep the Catalans at bay and ensure last season's runners-up moved into the quarter-finals.

Barca, who have powered their way up to third place in the Primera Liga on the back of a nine-match winning streak, created a host of excellent scoring chances throughout the match as they ran the midfield.

But in the absence of the suspended Javier Saviola and the injured Patrick Kluivert they lacked the finishing touch up front and could not break down the well-organized Celtic defense, who grew in confidence as the game wore on.

The runaway leaders of the Scottish premier league, accompanied by 5,000 fans at the Nou Camp, will now meet another Spanish side, Villarreal.

Barca wasted no time in pushing forward in search of an early goal and looked certain to take the lead in the opening minute after midfielder Gerard had been put through on goal by Ronaldinho.

But Marshall timed his intervention to perfection and tipped the ball away from his feet just as the Barca player lined up his shot.

The keeper, deputizing for Robert Douglas who was sent off in the first leg, was pressed into action on three more occasions in the opening minutes and responded brilliantly each time.

He reacted sharply to save a Luis Enrique header, palmed a Luis Garcia shot over the bar and then blocked another close-range effort as two Barca players bore down on him.

Celtic hardly had a touch of the ball and only threatened once when Henrik Larsson broke free in the seventh minute, but the Swedish striker was run down by Barca defender Carles Puyol.

Barca, with Ronaldinho at the helm, dominated for the rest of the half and should have broken the deadlock just before the break when Luis Garcia set up the unmarked Michael Reiziger but the Dutchman sliced wide of the post.

It was more of the same after the break, Barca launching wave after wave of attacks only to see them repelled by the dogged Celtic defense.

Marshall plucked the ball from the feet of Ronaldinho after he had jinked his way towards goal on 68 minutes, blocked a fierce shot from Gabri in the next attack and then produced an outstanding reflex save to turn a Luis Garcia volley over the bar.

AS Roma and Liverpool were also dumped out of the cup after a dramatic evening of matches.

Roma beat unfashionable Spanish side Villarreal 2-1 but lost the tie 3-2 on aggregate and Liverpool's season took another turn for the worse when they were beaten 2-1 at Olympique Marseille.

Inter Milan restored Italian pride by defeating Benfica 4-3 to reach the last eight, where they were joined by Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven, French team Girondins Bordeaux, England's Newcastle United and Spain's Valencia.

In next month's two-legged quarterfinals Marseille will play Inter, PSV face Newcastle and Bordeaux take on Valencia.

Villarreal, who have battled through the competition from the Intertoto Cup, looked to be heading out when goals by Roma's Emerson and Antonio Cassano levelled the tie.

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