Celtic fans and players consumed by sense of injustice

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The Independent Online

The tired cliché offered to victims of injustice, that things will even themselves out in the end, cuts no ice with Chris Sutton right now. The England player may have forced Juventus to concede Celtic had a case for remaining in the Champions' League, but there is no right of appeal.

Martin O'Neill's side find themselves sent down to the Uefa Cup, despite humbling one of the favourites for Europe's competition in a match that will be hard to eclipse between now and next May's final at Hampden Park. The pride of the thrilling 4-3 success over Marcello Lippi's side was outweighed not only by the pain that sides outside Group E, such as Boavista and Arsenal, qualified for the second phase with a poorer record, or one equal to that of the Scottish champions' nine points.

For Sutton, the pivotal moment out of 540 minutes football came six weeks ago, when Nicola Amoruso deceived the referee, Hellmut Krug, in the last minute in the Stadio Delle Alpi to steal a 3-2 win for Juventus that proved crucial.

"It's difficult not to look back on that incident in Turin," said the striker. "They say these things even themselves out, but that is hard to do when you have only got six games.

"Maybe if that had not happened, we would have finished above Juventus. I know we beat them 4-3, but it was a very flat dressing-room afterwards.

"We finished with nine points and it still was not quite enough. When you see Boavista qualifying with eight points, it's harder to take."

Sutton and the rest of his team-mates did not learn of Porto's 1-0 win over Rosenborg – which edged Celtic out by a point – until after the pulsating encounter with Juventus. They stood looking up at the confirmation on Parkhead's giant screen, unable to take it in.

O'Neill was on the touchline, swallowing hard and almost welling up with tears before he composed himself. "I am proud of my players – they just keep on producing brilliant performances," he said.

"Out of the six games we played, the only poor performance was away to Porto. But to give Juventus a goal of a start and come back to score four was incredible. The penalty in Turin cost us, however. We have grown since we won away to Ajax in the qualifying round and, while the players are disappointed, this has whetted their appetites for the Uefa Cup."

The resolve that Celtic showed to bounce back from Alessandro del Piero's sublime free-kick – and an equally eyecatching equaliser from David Trézéguet – drew admiration from Lippi, as much as the 58,000 fans who almost lifted the roof off Parkhead once Sutton's ferocious volley made it 4-2.

"Celtic gave us more problems than any other team in the group," the Juventus coach said. "They are strong, well organised and in Sutton and Larsson have two excellent strikers – but, with this crowd, they could beat anyone."

UEFA CUP QUALIFIERS (from Champions' League first phase): Celtic, Lokomotiv Moscow, Borussia Dortmund, Real Mallorca, PSV Eindhoven, Lyon, Feyenoord, Lille.

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