FC Barcelona 1-1 Celtic
Report of match 24th November 2004
Reporter Kevin Smith
Nou Camp point keeps UEFA Cup dream alive.A John Hartson goal on the stroke of half time earned Celtic a 1-1 draw in Barcelona last night. The draw was Celtic's first ever point away from home in the Champions League, and keeps our hopes for UEFA Cup qualification alive. Our fate is now in our own hands; a win against AC Milan in a fortnight secures us European football after Christmas.
Celtic are the only team to come away with any points in the Nou Camp stadium this season. When you think that Barcelona's previous match was a 3-0 trouncing of Real Madrid, it puts last night's game into perspective. What a fantastic effort from our Bhoys to gain a point in such a fortress like the Nou Camp.
Celts defended with their backs to the wall for the majority of the game - similar to the way we played back in the same stadium back in March - with the same outcome. Around 8,000 Celtic supporters were there to see it and a great time was had by all.
We left for Glasgow Airport at 5.30am on Wednesday, courtesy of a lift from Mrs Duff (cheers!). This time we were going for the overnight stay as we wanted the luxury of a bed after the game, rather than hours of waiting at the airport and a couple of hours kip on the plane, which the day trip offers. We travelled with Cambuslang Travel.
We checked in and grabbed a pint to wake us up and we boarded our Monarch Airlines flight on time. So far so good. We were served with a surprisingly tasty breakfast on board during a decent flight, and touched down in Barcelona Airport at around 11.30 local time.
We were bussed to our hotel, the Hotel Presidente, which was in the centre of the city. Sixteen floors high and we found ourselves second from the top. The banner was promptly hung out of the window to let the locals know The Bhoys had arrived! Our room was fabulous. Plasma screen television, mini-bar and the comfiest bed you will ever sleep in, but it wasn't long before we were out of the hotel and in a taxi heading for the action.
A taxi to Las Ramblas was only a few Euros and we stopped off at a supermarket to stock up on the carry out. A few bottles of Barcelona's finest, Estrella Damn was the order for the time-being, and we took a wander down one of Europe's most famous streets. There were Celtic supporters everywhere you looked; in restaurants, bars and balconies. A difference from our visit in March was that there were less street entertainers this time around, possibly as it is approaching the end of the tourist season.
Barcelona is a massive city and there were several thousand Celtic supporters there, so there were a few meeting points. The Placa de Catalunya was busy but I found it strange everyone positioned so close to a very busy road. We headed for a smaller square to the left of Las Ramblas, in which 'Irish Bar' Flaherty's is situated.
For the record, I did not even enter Flaherty's bar. The owner was guilty of ripping off Celtic supporters when he sold them overpriced tickets for the UEFA Cup Final, from his bar in Seville. As if he couldn't get any lower, he allowed the Daily Record permission to hang their flags and banners all over his pub last March. On top of this the prices he charges for drink are unacceptable and there is nothing Irish about his bar.
The square was busy with the usual drill applied. Plenty of banners hung from any possible source, a few footballs getting kicked about and noisy, annoying fog horns. We hung the banner up and settled down, making our way through beer after beer. Does anyone else notice that when on a European trip, the merrier you become, the more confident you get of winning the forthcoming game? Maybe it's just me, but the general perception I get while on these trips is that when you are there, and you see the Celtic fans, no-one can beat us!
Unfortunatley, there seems to be an idiotic element which is now growing amongst our support at away games. Obviously, guys are going away and drinking heavily for days on end, and some just cannot handle it. I am witnessing far too many petty scuffles and arguments which is not the way we should be acting while following our team in Europe.
We headed back to the hotel to catch our coach for the game, which was leaving two hours before kick off. However, things never turned out and we missed the coach, so were faced with either walking it to the ground or getting a taxi. We had a few problems at the taxi rank as certain locals seem to think that because they are local, they can walk to the front of taxi queues. I cannot imagine this happening in Argyll Street to Barcelona fans when they visit Glasgow!
We managed to get a taxi and after climbing 2 Million stairs we found our seat in the Celtic end. I have never been so far away from the pitch at a football stadium in my life, but what a stadium it is. Your first impression on entering the Nou Camp is one of amazement, and it has been a delight to visit it, as well as the San Siro this season.
Celtic lined up with Magnus Hedman keeping his place in goal. Henri Camara was dropped to the bench and Bobo Balde and Didier Agathe both started the game.
From the beginning it was tough. Ronaldinho was showing signs of his class and nut-megged Joos Valgaeren twice in the opening ten minutes of the match. As expected, Barca controlled the game and after piling on the pressure, took the lead after 25 minutes. Ronaldinho took a quick free-kick, when the ball was in motion, and Deco linked up with Eto'o who fired past Magnus Hedman.
I said before the game that if we could avoid an early goal we would stand a chance. Barca's goal was a blow but they could have had another moments later, when Eto'o shot wide.
Celtic were playing alright, and were awarded a free-kick on the stroke of half time. It was the chance we had been waiting for. Stan Petrov whipped the ball across and John Hartson was at the back post to tap home into the empty net. Reports suggested that Stan Varga got a touch onto the cross but television replays show no such thing. Hartson was in an offside position when he scored but was not when the ball was crossed.
We ate our half time hot dogs with smiles on our faces, smiles that turned to frowns when we realised we were being sold alcohol-free beer in the ground!
Celtic's mission in the second half was simple. We came out with a game plan to hold the match at 1-1 and we stuck to it. Barcelona hit us with everything but we held on and what an effort it was from our players. With five minutes of the game remaining we all thought it was going to be the same old story but Celtic kept on plugging away, no crazy mistakes were made and we gained our first ever away Champions League point.
The Celtic fans were superb throughout the night and it was great to see Martin O'Neill and Neil Lennon applauding us at the end. It's great to see that we have a manager who does not give a monkey's what the media say about him, he will do the right thing.
Las Ramblas was bouncing after the game. Celtic fans everywhere, singing and dancing - it was almost like scenes at Ibrox after a CIS Cup victory. We found a bar in another square near Las Ramblas and celebrated a fine result until the small hours. We never did make breakfast this morning!
Barcelona Airport was slightly chaotic today on departure, but we got away after not too long of a delay. A fantastic trip was had by all; they seem to get better every time. I would recommend Cambuslang Travel for any future away trpis (possibly in February?).
What a result, we should all be proud of our team for what we have achieved. We know what we have to do now, the Milan game in a fortnight is looking as if it is going to be one hell of a night.
Celtic: Hedman, McNamara, Valgaeren, Balde, Varga (Camara), Agathe, Lennon, Petrov, Thompson, Sutton, Hartson
Come On The Hoops Man Of The Match: Jackie McNamara
Come On The Hoops Moment To Remember: The Celtic fans at the final whistle, and picking up our first away points in the Champions League.
Come On The Hoops Moment To Forget: The added time after 90 minutes. it seemed to last a lifetime!
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