Celtic move ahead on tightrope to last 16

Celtic 0 Bayern Munich 0
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The Independent Football

Celtic's Champions' League ambitions were put on hold last night as Bayern Munich became the first side in the competition to survive the cauldron of Parkhead during the Martin O'Neill era. With Anderlecht defeating Lyon, Group A has become the tightest of all the groups.

It will now go down to the wire in a fortnight's time. Just one point separates the four teams and O'Neill's side will need a draw in Lyon to reach the last 16.

Despite hectic pressure, the Germans refused to buckle. "The vocal support you have given us defies belief," O'Neill said in his programme notes. "Tonight will be another special night."

Right on cue, both teams emerged from the tunnel to a roar which could probably be heard back in Bavaria. Bayern had brought a vocal contingent of fans too, but this was Parkhead's turn to show why it is regarded as Celtic's 12th man.

The great surprise was that O'Neill had opted to leave Liam Miller, the new golden boy of Parkhead, on the bench to allow John Hartson to return to the side. Celtic's power had disturbed Bayern in their own back yard two months ago and it unnerved the 2001 winners inside the opening two minutes as the trio of Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton and Hartson dovetailed for the Welsh striker to force a save out of goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, with his low shot.

There was no let-up. Celtic swept upfield again, forcing a corner which Stilian Petrov delivered to the near post, where Stanislav Varga flicked it on for Larsson to miss narrowly with his follow-up.

The pace of the first half was incessant and though it failed to produce a goal, it was impossible to take your eyes from the action. Larsson continued to torment Bayern. The Swede's low, curling free-kick crept round the wall and forced Kahn to beat it away. Larsson then danced past a series of tackles before Kahn held his snap-shot.

But Bayern were far from dormant. Michael Ballack shook off his marker in the 23rd minute to fire a fierce long-range shot that Magnus Hedman did well to help over the bar.

Celtic's pressure, though, was maintained at full intensity. They hemmed Bayern in and Hartson thought he had secured the breakthrough in the 38th minute when he was picked out by Alan Thompson's corner at the back post, but his downward header was diverted wide by the vigilant Owen Hargreaves.

However, before the sides reached the dressing-room, Roy Makaay - the scorer of both goals in the previous game in Munich - got clear into the box and Hedman combined with Varga to deny him.

Celtic were not disheartened. They kept probing for an opening in the second half, with Hartson's strength causing problems. The Welshman stormed through the Bayern defence with a driving run that needed two defenders to stop him at the expense of a corner, which Miller, who had come on for Didier Agathe, planted on Sutton's head only for the striker to find the side-netting.

Larsson had also had a penalty claim denied as Bayern's panic was indicated by an inept punch away from yet another Miller corner, but Celtic had to remain vigilant. Ballack was given another chance 17 minutes from the end, from Makaay's knockdown, but the midfielder dragged his shot wide of Hedman's post from the edge of the box.

Celtic, however, were catching their breath for a final assault on Kahn's goal, urged on by 60,000 voices.

Celtic (3-5-2): Hedman; Varga, Balde, McNamara; Agathe (Miller, 62), Lennon, Sutton, Petrov, Thompson; Larsson, Hartson (Sylla, 86). Substitutes not used: Douglas (gk), Gray, Valgaeren, Maloney, Mjallby.

Bayern Munich (4-4-2): Kahn; Sagnol, Kuffour, Kovac, Lizarazu; Salihamidzic, Hargreaves, Jeremies, Ballack; Makaay, Santa Cruz (Pizarro, 73). Substitutes not used: Rensing (gk), Demichelis, Rau, Linke, Schweinsteiger, Ze Roberto.

Referee: R Temmink(Neth).