Football: Liverpool survive Donnelly's miss

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The Independent Online
Liverpool 0

Celtic 0

(2-2 on aggregate; Liverpool win on away goals)

It had been billed as the Battle of Britain but the outcome last night proved to be something less heroic than the title implied. No one writes eulogies to scoreless draws.

Not that Liverpool will be concerned. They, not Celtic, progress to the second round of the Uefa Cup thanks to the away goals they scored in the 2-2 draw in Glasgow. It was hardly stirring stuff from the English side but it will suffice.

Indeed, apart from the result, the night belonged to Celtic, whose passing, passion and enterprise under stricken circumstances deserved more. It was a dog-fight which they could and should have won and they will talk in Scotland about the open goal Simon Donnelly missed in the first half for years to come.

Steve McManaman's talent flickered intermittently for the home side, but apart from a late flourish when Karlheinz Riedle had a header saved on the line it was Celtic who looked likelier to get the goal that would have settled the contest.

Donnelly was a constant irritant to Liverpool's lumbering defenders while Craig Burley and Morten Wieghorst comprehensively eclipsed Paul Ince and Jamie Carragher in midfield. Not for the first time in European competition "the Guvnor" was usurped.

"The longer the game went on the more the balance swung towards them as any goal would give us no chance to get back," Evans said. "We put the effort in and defended well but I know deep down we can improve and need to if we are going to win the competition."

Celtic, whose lack of resources was reflected in their naming of only five substitutes, were forced to attack because of the goals they conceded at Parkhead and their best opportunities came in the first half when they failed to maximise David James's vulnerability on crosses.

The goalkeeper's mistakes were blamed by supporters for Liverpool's lame finish to the championship last season and he will be grateful that last night passed without his letting the Uefa Cup campaign slip through his hands.

His first escape came after 19 minutes when he and Stig Inge Bjornebye collided on the edge of the penalty area to allow the ball to drop to Donnelly. The striker had scored at Parkhead but, faced with an open goal at Anfield, he attempted to loop the ball into the net and inexplicably was high and wide.

That blemish had not been entirely James's fault but there was nothing to exonerate his goalkeeping eight minutes later when he charged off his line and got nowhere near a cross from the left. The danger was partially cleared, but Wieghorst crashed a volley goalwards that was blocked by Bjornebye a yard from the goal. Celtic believed the Norwegian had used an arm and appealed for the penalty, but the referee gave him the benefit of the doubt that television evidence suggested was correct.

It had been less than rumbustious stuff from the English side and it was the Scots who continued to ask the questions immediately after the interval. The mood of the match had changed: Celtic believed they could win where beforehand they had hoped.

After 54 minutes Alan Stubbs leapt prodigiously to thump Burley's free- kick with his head. For a second it appeared it might loop over James, but as the goalkeeper scuttled back the ball sailed just over.

That was close but Donnelly was closer, sliding ahead of Phil Babb to get a touch to Henrik Larsson's low cross after 79 minutes. The ball shot past James but into the side netting.

Perversely, with the circumstances demanding backs to the wall, Liverpool finished on the charge. In the 88th minute Riedle met Patrik Berger's corner with an header that was denied only by Donnelly on the line

A goal then would have been an injustice but Celtic had nothing left to throw at Liverpool. "Everyone thought it would be an easy match for them," Wim Jansen, the Celtic coach, said, "but we showed we can play a good game. We had more real chances."

They had, but they had not taken them. It had taken two weeks to prove it, but McManaman's glorious dribble and goal in the first leg had been the definitive statement in this contest.

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; Jones, Kvarme, Babb, Bjornebye; Berger, Ince, Carragher, McManaman; Fowler (Riedle, 84), Owen. Substitutes not used: McAteer, Nielsen (gk), Harkness, Thomas, Kennedy, Murphy.

Celtic (3-5-2): Gould; Annoni, Stubbs, Mahe; Burley, McNamara, Wieghorst, Hannah, McKinlay; Larsson, Donnelly. Substitutes not used: Kerr, Mackay, Gray, McLaughlin, McBride.

Referee: E Steinborn (Ger).

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