Celtic defeat completes bleak week

EUROPEAN CUP-WINNERS' CUP: Familiar story for British clubs as Scots meet their Paris match and the Toffees come unstuck
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The Independent Online

Celtic 0 Paris St-Germain 3 (PSG win 4-0 on aggregate)

The only consolation was that they conceded less than Rangers, but even in the parochial world of Glaswegian football, that was little consolation to Celtic last night.

The Scottish Cup winners were outclassed by their French equivalents just as thoroughly as Rangers had been by Juventus on Wednesday. Two first- half goals from Patrice Loko, the latest enfant terrible of French football, killed off Celtic. Pascal Nouma then added a third to complete a grim week for the Scottish, nay, British game.

Celtic can take some credit from the game: they never capitulated and should have scored at least once. Their supporters also kept going and gave the French side a standing ovation at the final whistle.

At this level it is Bhoys against men. It was the same old story, the French passing was crisper and more accurate, their movement more intelligent and penetrating, their finishing sharper and their defending surer.

This should not come as a surprise. Paris St-Germain have reached a European semi-final in each of the last three years. Celtic have not reached a quarter-final for 16. They may have been the first British winners of the European Cup, but that was a long time ago.

"We are bitterly disappointed but, from our point of view, we must keep it in persepective," Tommy Burns, the Celtic manager, said.

"Last year we weren't in Europe, then this year we got through the first round. Now we have gone out to a side who are superb - and it has probably come too early for us frankly. They are a fabulous team but I will not be swayed from our goal to make Celtic the No 1 team in Scotland again."

By playing Andy Walker in attack, and Andreas Thom just behind him and Pierre van Hooijdonk, Burns sought to add penetration to Celtic's customary neat approach play.

It almost paid off after 25 minutes, when Walker met Rudi Vata's cross with a sharp header, only for Bernard Lama to touch it around the post.

Slowly Paris drew Celtic's sting and began to show menace themselves. After 32 minutes, Loko might have scored when Youri Djorkaeff found him in space, but Gordon Marshall smothered his shot.

The goalkeeper was less secure two minutes later, fumbling Laurent Fournier's shot and allowing Loko to score. Seven minutes later the dreadlocked striker struck again, volleying in Djorkaeff's tight cross.

The double effectively ended Celtic's European campaign. Having lost 1-0 in Paris, they now needed four goals. For Loko, however, it was another welcome sign of his rehabilitation. The French international has only recently returned to playing after an unfortunate episode which ended with him exposing himself to a female police officer after being arrested.

The incident followed the death of his young child and his summer move to Paris from Nantes. However, he now appears to be recovering his form.

Loko later hobbled off, but there was no respite for Celtic as his replacement, Nouma, scored from another Djorkaeff cross after 68 minutes. He should have gone on to a hat-trick, but was twice denied by Marshall. Such chances were inevitable as Celtic, having brought on two wingers, were desperately seeking a goal.

They ought to have had at least one. Grant shot wide from 40 yards after Lama left his goal area once too often, then Donnelly, having finally sprung the offside trap in the final minute, shot tamely at Lama.

The miss left Raith Rovers with the dubious distinction of being Britain's only European scorers this week - and even Danny Lennon's goal was deflected into the net.

Celtic (4-3-1-2): Marshall; Vata (Donnelly, h-t), Hughes, Boyd, McKinlay; McStay, Grant, Collins; Thom; Walker, Van Hooijdonk (McLaughlin, 62).

Paris St-Germain (3-4-1-2): Lama; Cobos, Le Guen, Mahe (Dieng, 27); Fournier (Llacer, 68), Bravo, Guerin, Colleter; Djorkaeff; Loko (Nouma, 58), Rai.

Referee: K Rothlisberger (Switzerland).

The managers of the six English clubs in Europe this season have been invited by the Football Association to discuss their experiences with the England coach, Terry Venables. Apart from Nottingham Forest, who scraped into the third round of the Uefa Cup, all the other clubs have been eliminated. Manchester United lost in the first round of the Uefa Cup to Rotor Volgograd; Leeds and Liverpool went out in the second round, beaten by PSV Eindhoven and Brondby respectively; Everton lost to Feyenoord in the second round of the Cup-Winners' Cup; and Blackburn Rovers are already eliminated from the Champions' League.