Celtic humbled as Larsson returns to haunt Parkhead

Celtic 1 - Barcelona 3
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The Independent Online

Former Celtic favourite Henrik Larsson came off the Barcelona bench to hand the Catalan club a comprehensive victory at Parkhead last night.

Henrik Larsson came back to haunt Celtic as he scored the goal that killed their spirited Champions' League comeback stone dead at Parkhead last night.

The Scottish champions had forced their way back into the game after an early Deco goal, thanks to David Marshall's penalty save and then Chris Sutton's equaliser.

However, Larsson came off the bench on to help set up Ludovic Guily's 78th minute strike and then the former Celtic icon seized on Alan Thompson's slack pass back to round poor Marshall four minutes later.

Larsson admitted he found it difficult to celebrate the goal but insisted he was just doing his job. "There were mixed feelings. I have had seven great years here but I know what I have to do now. I'm a Barcelona player. Celtic will always have a big place in my heart but life goes on."

Frank Rijkaard had left Larsson on the bench to accommodate Ronaldinho and instead of lauding their former hero, Parkhead glimpsed Larsson coming out the tunnel and sliding into the visitors' dugout.

There had been a 30-minute delay to the kick-off because of a power failure that locked out 2000 fans in the North Stand and police insisted they had to be admitted before the action could begin. When it did, there was nothing wrong with the volume ­ it was at full power, as the Celtic fans roared out Larsson's name.

Barcelona, though, were already at full power. They almost swept Celtic off their feet in the opening 20 minutes.

It was little surprise when Deco scored. The Portuguese midfielder won possession in midfield and found Ronaldinho before slipping away to gather the return pass and thumping a right-foot shot past Marshall.

Celtic only began to gain a foothold in the contest just before the interval. However, Barcelona were merely taking a rest after their prodigious opening. They carved Celtic wide open in the last few first-half minutes, with Marshall producing a vital save to deny Guily's shot. The little Frenchman returned moments later, chasing Deco's pass and rounding Marshall only to see his netbound effort cleared away by the dogged Bobo Baldé.

Celtic could not reach the dressing room quickly enough where manager Martin O'Neill must have delivered a few home truths as well as replacing Juninho with Chris Sutton.

The reward came three minutes later when Sutton restored parity by finishing off a swift Celtic counter-attack. Henri Camara's pace destroyed Giovanni van Bronckhorst before he swung over a low cross that somehow was met by Sutton, who muscled in front of Rafael Marquez to steer a left-foot shot past Victor Valds.

Barcelona's confidence was sucked from them. Stillian Petrov forced a great save out of Valds with a left-foot volley and then Juliano Belletti almost scored an own goal under fierce pressure from Thompson.

Then Larsson came on and he had a role in putting Barcelona 2-1 ahead, linking with Belletti whose cutback was swept in by Guily.

Celtic (4-3-1-2): Marshall; Agathe, Varga, Balde, McNamara; Petrov Lennon, Thompson; Juninho (Sutton, h-t); Hartson, Camara. Substitutes not used: Douglas, Sylla, Valgaeren, Pearson, McGeady, Lambert.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Belletti, Puyol, Marquez, van Bronckhorst; Deco, Gerard, Xavi; Guily, Eto'o, Ronaldinho. Substitutes not used: Ruben, Larsson, Sylvinho, Gabri, Navarro, Oleguer, Iniesta.

Referee: M Merk (Germany).

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