billy mcneill

Contentious 10 – Best Celtic European Away Performances

It was the 44th Minute of a do or die game against the joint leaders of Italy’s Serie A. Celtic had played out of their skin for 43 of those minutes and incredibly taken the lead. As the inevitable shouts of, “Please, just get to half time” and “This would be a terrible time to concede a goal” were uttered, Di Natale capitalised on a mistake and BOOM it’s one each.

The game finished as a draw and although Celtic were eliminated from European competition, this was a great away performance for the club, in a country where they have always struggled. The performance as a whole was sadly overshadowed by a stupid banner but for any Scottish club in 2011 to go to Italy and get a battling draw, where either side could have won it, should be heralded by every fan in the country. (The obvious exceptions apply)

 Reflecting on the game afterwards got me thinking about Celtic away from home in European competition.  Their recent record is pretty awful but it’s not always been so, and there have been some great results over the last decade or so. The Udinese performance could breathe new life into the Hoops in Europe as the maturity and nerve on display was a sight to behold.

 So here is a list of 10 of Celtic’s best away performances, which I’m sure most people will take some umbrage with. The majority of them are within the last 11 years, with a few exceptions, and I’ve not counted any European Cup finals. There is no ranking system or order of importance.

 Honourable Mentions:

1. Stuttgart 2002/03 – Great attacking performance but they almost blew it.

2. Lyon 2003/04 – Goalkeeper, that’s all that needs to be said on this one.

3. Blackburn 2002/03 – Men against boys was it Graeme?

4. Celta Vigo 2002/03 – Grit and determination and NO foul.

 Ajax 1 – 3 Celtic – Champions League Third Qualifying Round – 08th August 2001 – Celtic won 3–2 on aggregate.

 This is one of the best away performances that I have ever seen from a Celtic team. It was Martin O’Neills first big test in Europe and he passed with flying colours. Chris Sutton was dominante in this game and on the flanks Agathe and Petta were both excellent and both scored. The second leg was edge of your seat stuff but this really put down a marker.

 Barcelona 1 – 1 Celtic – Champions League Group Stage – 24th November 2004

As the final whistle rang out in the Nou Camp that night, everybody released a huge sigh of relief; finally Celtic had a point away from home in the Champions League. They rode their luck in this game but who doesn’t against Barcelona? Hartson side footed the equaliser and Celtic certainly got the monkey off their backs that night. Unfortunately the Monkey has reattached itself and mutated into King Kong, at least they were in the Champions League at that point.

 Liverpool 0 – 2 Celtic – Uefa Cup Quarter Final – 20th March 2003 – Celtic won 3–1 on aggregate.

This was a great team performance from Celtic and some exceptional shot stopping from Rab Douglas, especially from Gerrard and Heskey. The Liverpool midfield of Hamman and Gerrard dominated the first leg and even though Larsson scored an early goal (off his knee) Celtic were on the back foot for most of it. Anfield was different, everyone played together and Celtic were a great unit. All capped off by Hartson’s rapier finish.

 Leeds United 0 – 1 Celtic – European Cup Semi-Final – 1st April 1970 – Celtic won 3–1 on aggregate.

This was one of the greatest Leeds teams of all time; they were English champions and managed by Don Revie (who was a twat).  They were brash, arrogant but very talented and this was a true Battle of Britain. I have only ever seen the highlights of this game but the magnitude of this victory can not be overlooked (Or so my dad keeps telling me).

Bordeaux 1 – 1 Celtic – Uefa Cup Second Round – 26th October 2000 – Bordeaux win 3-2 on aggregate.

Bordeaux were a handy side and in Dugarry they had an unbelievable player and match winner. As he scored for Bordeaux that night, everyone had a sense that it would be the same old goal glut but Celtic showed a stubbornness and maturity in this game. Larsson scored a penalty to equalise and set up a great, if heartbreaking, second leg. This game was the start of a golden era of European performances and also showed Larsson was back to his best.

 Valencia 1 – 0 Celtic – Uefa Cup Third Round – 22nd November 2001 – Finished 1- 1 on aggregate. Valencia won 5–4 on penalties.

Valencia were beaten finalists in the 2000 and 2001 Champions League and in their ranks were Mendieta, Lopez and Canizares. On paper Celtic were gonna get humped and to an extent they did. It was wave after wave of attack but Rab Douglas was exceptional that night and although Celtic lost by one it could’ve been 5 or 6. The fact they only lost one, set up a great European night at Celtic Park and a deserved victory. Less said about the penalties the better.

Dukla Prague 0 – 0 Celtic – European Cup Semi-Final – 25th April 1967 – Celtic won 3–1 on aggregate.

How could you leave it out? Okay I haven’t seen it and couldn’t comment on what happened but it was the game that helped Celtic to qualify for their first European Cup final. Amazing, plus I always wanted a Dukla Prague away kit.

Boavista 0 – 1 Celtic – Uefa Cup Semi-Final – 24th April 2003 – Celtic won 2-1 on aggregate.

What a horrible game this was and it really had draw written all over it, which of course would have eliminated the hoops. The players stuck to their task though and never gave up, with the goal eventually coming from Larsson. How it went in, I will never know but it got Celtic to Seville and the rest is history. It was a dogged and determined display in a match that lacked any real quality.

Juventus 3 – 2 Celtic – Champions League group stage – 18th September 2001.

The grand old lady of Italian football was Celtic’s first Champions League group match opponents. They should’ve been at home against Rosenberg first but the 9/11 attacks scuppered that plan (thanks Osama you pr*ck). The drama was unbelievable and the match had it all, Red cards, Goals, an amazing comeback and blatant cheating (what is it with guys called Amoruso?). As Martin O’Neill would say…….Extraordinary.

Barcelona 0 – 0 Celtic – Uefa Cup Fourth Round – 25th March 2004 – Celtic Won 1-0 on aggregate. 

Barcelona again but this was such an unbelievable match I just couldn’t leave it out. One nil up from the first leg courtesy of Alan Thompson, Celtic were attacked from the first to the final minute. A lot of the time the game was watched through your hands or from behind the sofa. David Marshall was magnificent and John Kennedy showed what a great player he could have been. As the game went on you started to believe Celtic could hold on and as the final whistle sounded disbelief turned to jubilation.

You can follow Chris on twitter @TheGallatron


Chris is an avid Celtic supporter with leanings towards Juventus and Boca Juniors. A student of film and popular culture, he has an interest in politics and music. Inspired by leaders, his favourite players include Paul Lambert, Juan Román Riquelme and Alessandro Del Piero. Chris is the producer and host of the 90 Minute Cynic football podcast. You can find him on twitter @TheGallatron.


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