Amoruso stuns brave Celtic

Juventus 3 Celtic 2
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The Independent Football

Celtic were denied a prized point from their first Champions' League appearance when a controversial penalty two minutes from time allowed Nicola Amoruso to steal victory for Juventus.

The substitute, who had replaced Alessandro Del Piero just a minute earlier, brushed past Joos Valgaeren and dived in the dying seconds. An incensed Martin O'Neill was ordered to the stand and missed Amoruso beating Robert Douglas with the cruel spot kick.

O'Neill was incandescent. "I simply cannot believe the penalty," he said afterwards. "If it was remotely close it would not be a problem. It was simply not a penalty. Even the Juventus players had turned back waiting for the goal-kick."

Just minutes earlier, Celtic had themselves converted a penalty when Henrik Larsson beat Gianluigi Buffon after Chris Sutton had been brought down by Alessandro Birindelli. The final twist was ill-deserved.

The hot, sunny day had given way to peculiarly Scottish weather by the time the game started. Consequently, the Stadio delle Alpi seemed barely half full, with the 5,000-strong Celtic support making the most noise.

However, those Scottish voices were almost stilled after four minutes when Mark Iuliano's cross found Del Piero, whose volley flashed past Douglas's post. And when Johan Mjallby fouled Marcello Salas outside the box, Del Piero whipped a free-kick over the bar.

Celtic, however, gradually found their rhythm and their passing game proved frustrating for Edgar Davids on his return, the Dutch midfielder fortunate not to be punished for some savage tackles on Stilian Petrov, Larsson and Neil Lennon.

Lennon recovered sufficiently to draw the first save of the night after 32 minutes, when his cross was met firmly by Sutton's head but the alert Buffon threw himself to deny the striker.

Celtic were rescued by Bobo Balde just three minutes later when the defender appeared on the line to divert Paolo Montero's header away, but the respite was only temporary, Juventus breaking the deadlock two minutes before the interval, ironically just seconds after Paul Lambert threatened to pierce them at the other end.

The ball broke quickly to Del Piero in the centre circle and he drew Valgaeren out to the right on a meandering run before leaving the Belgian behind and delivering a cutback which was sidefooted past Douglas by David Trezeguet.

The deficit which confronted Celtic at the start of the second half was scarcely merited and Didier Agathe ought to have restored parity after getting away from Montero but he fired his shot wide. The need to be ruthless at this rarefied level was underlined by Trezeguet after 55 minutes. Del Piero was sublime, spinning away from Balde near the corner flag before delivering an outswinging cross. Trezeguet stepped away from Valgaeren and sent a powerful header past Douglas.

Del Piero could have put the game beyond Celtic had he not wasted his own searing run by slicing his shot over, but the let-off galvanised the Scottish champions. A period of probing play saw them slice into that lead on 67 minutes when Montero ended a flowing move by bringing down Sutton. Larsson rolled the free kick into Petrov's path and his 25-yard shot took a wicked deflection on its way in.

Celtic's cause was further aided eight minutes later when Davids was sent off for his second caution. But the worse was yet to come.

Juventus (3-4-1-2): Buffon; Montero, Thuram, Iuliano; Zenoni, Tacchinardi, Davids, Pessotto (Birndelli, 62); Del Piero (Amoruso, 87); Trezeguet, Salas (O'Neill, 68). Substitutes not used: Carini (gk), Ferrerra, Paramatti, Maresca.

Celtic (3-5-2): Douglas; Mjallby, Balde, Valgaeren; Agathe, Petrov, Lambert, Lennon, Thompson (Petta, 57); Sutton, Larsson. Substitutes not used: Kharine (gk), Sylla, McNamara, Hartson, Tebily, Guppy.

Referee: H Krugg (Germany).