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The night when the Bhoys got the better of Barca in the Nou Camp

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IT was a result that offered further confirmation of Celtic’s status as a top European side under Martin O’Neill, and 16 years on, it remains just as impressive.

On March 25, 2004, Celtic travelled to the Nou Camp for the second leg of their UEFA Cup last 16 tie against Barcelona, having won the first leg at Paradise 1-0 thanks to a brilliant Alan Thompson goal.

It would still be the toughest of tasks to progress to the quarter-final, however, and they would have to do so with 19-year-old goalkeeper, David Marshall, making only his seventh first-team appearance and filling in for the suspended Rab Douglas.

In the event, Marshall, along with fellow Youth Academy graduate, John Kennedy, were instrumental in ensuring a 0-0 draw on the night and a 1-0 aggregate win for Celtic. It was a monumental victory and one that current Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, who played in that game, remembers with great fondness.

“That was another great performance,” he said. “The first game at Celtic Park, we played really well and we deserved to win the game, but in the second game at the Nou Camp, it was backs to the wall for a lot of the time.

“David Marshall came in as goalkeeper for that game and really made his name that night. He had an unbelievable performance in goals for us that night, and to knock out Barcelona over two games was spectacular.”

Celtic’s heroes in Catalonia that March night back in 2004 were: Marshall, Kennedy, Varga, McNamara, Agathe, Lennon, Petrov, Thompson, Pearson, Sutton, Larsson.

Momo Sylla came on in the 83rd minute for Chris Sutton, while Irish midfielder, Liam Miller, another Academy graduate, replaced Jackie McNamara on 52 minutes. Liam, sadly, passed away on February 2018 at the age of just 36.

Neil Lennon, of course, knows what it’s like to beat Barcelona as a Celtic manager as well as a Celtic player. His Hoops team did just that on November 7, 2012 when they defeated the Catalan giants – considered by many at the time to be the best club side in the world – 2-1 at Paradise in a Champions League group-stage game, courtesy of goals from Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt.

So how do the two triumphs compare?

“As a manager, I think you get a lot more pride and satisfaction out of it,” Neil Lennon admitted. “As a player, you’re part of the team but as manager, you select the team obviously, and you try to get them to play the way you want them to play, and you have to pick your way through the game.

“The fitness levels of the players has to be at a certain level as well because of the speed Barcelona play at, and the players in 2012 showed great fortitude because two weeks earlier we had lost in the 93rd minute in the Nou Camp after another great defensive display.

“That was galling for them but the way they responded was magnificent. So you take a lot of pride in that as manager.

“The Barcelona night was really what Celtic is all about and where we wanted to take the club, back on to that stage and make us respectable again in Europe.

“It was our 125-year anniversary, there was the incredible display all around the stadium, and then the players stretched every sinew and gave everything on the night in what was probably one of our most memorable ever results.”

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