CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2003-04 GROUP STAGES GROUP B: SEPTEMBER 17TH BAYERN MUNICH 2 (MAKAAY 72’, 86’) CELTIC 1 (THOMPSON 57’) NOVEMBER 25TH CELTIC 0 BAYERN MUNICH 0
We’ve already discussed Celtic’s Champions League Group Stages campaign of 2003-04 on these pages before, as Celtic played Anderlecht but the real BIG DOGS of the group were Bayern Munich, and this Celtic team were more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the German Champions.
The Bayern side Celtic were facing may not have been one of the best in their history, but they could still draw upon the likes of Oliver Khan, Ze Roberto, Michael Ballack, Claudio Pizarro, Owen Hargreaves and Roy Makaay, so the two games were still undoubtedly going to be very tough encounters for Celtic.
To the game in Munich, were Celtic were missing our suspended captain Paul Lambert, but we more then matched Bayern in a tense first half of few chances, a Chris Sutton effort into the side netting and a Bobo Balde header saved by Khan were the closest we came to scoring, while for Bayern their own real chance was a Hargreaves free-kick that went just wide.
The second-half began with Makaay and Ze Roberto both heading chances over the bar, before the Celts took the lead in the 57th minute, an Agathe cross seemed to miss everyone before Alan Thompson popped up at the back post with a diving header to give Celtic a deserved 1-0 lead.
The big question was, could Celtic hold onto the lead and gain our first ever points in an away Champions League Group Stage game? The answer, unfortunately, was no. In the 72nd minute Varga’s headed clearance only went as far as the edge of the penalty box where Makaay was on hand to volley home the equaliser. Then in the 86th minute Makaay put Bayern into the lead when his cross into the box eluded everyone, including Celtic goalkeeper Magnus Hedman and ended up in the back of the net, a truly appalling goal to concede and one which Hedman’s Celtic career never really recovered from.
Still, after such an encouraging performance in the game in Germany, hopes were high that Celtic could get a win at Celtic Park in the return game in November. Just as in the first game, it was a match of very few chances, as Bayern seemed content to try and win a point. Henrik Larsson came close to breaking the deadlock with a couple of efforts which Khan saved, a Hartson header was cleared off the line, Hedman saved a Ballack effort whilst a huge goalmouth scramble ended with Petrov’s shot being blocked.
The final whistle ended the game with no goals scored, and as Bayern celebrated their point you realised that Celtic were once again on the verge of becoming one of the big clubs in Europe, who teams would really fear playing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but that’s for another day and the Celtic players and management involved can look back on these two games with a feeling of pride and disappointment.