Celta dream of more great European nights

By Richard Martin
Football Soccer - FC Krasnodar v Celta Vigo - UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg - Krasnodar Stadium, Krasnodar, Russia - 16/03/17. Krasnodar's goalkeeper Andrei Sinitsin fails to save a shot by Celta Vigo's Mallo. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Richard Martin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Celta Vigo's 2-0 Europa League win at Russian side Krasnodar on Thursday has given them another shot at reaching a European semi-final and conjured up memories of their runs to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals at the turn of the century.

Celta are the only Spanish team left in the competition and sneaked into the last 16 by forcing extra-time at Shakhtar Donetsk with a stoppage-time penalty from local hero Iago Aspas.

A late strike from Claudio Beauvue lifted them to a 2-1 victory over Krasnodar in the first leg in Vigo and the Galicians shrugged off the 5,000km journey to win the second leg in Russia 2-0.

"We played a brave game, had a lot of possession and made the opponents feel uncomfortable and I'm delighted with how we played," coach Eduardo Berizzo told reporters after goals from Aspas and captain Hugo Mallo sealed another famous European victory for Celta.

"This team plays best when it gets excited, when it plays with its heart and dreams of great nights. I want to congratulate my players for having conviction in our plan.

"They showed great character and it's thanks to them we get to keep living nights like these."

Celta have never won a major trophy but became known around Europe for their three enthralling UEFA Cup campaigns between 1998 and 2001, thrashing European greats such as Benfica 7-0 and Juventus 4-0 as well as knocking out Liverpool.

Celta exited the competition at the quarter-final stage each time, however, going out 2-1 on aggregate to Marseille in 1999 and Lens in 2000 by the same scoreline, while they were eliminated by Barcelona on away goals in 2001.

"I hope we can keep on dreaming big," added Berizzo, a former Celta defender who was part of the team knocked out by Barcelona.

"I hope in a number of days we'll be able to celebrate another 2-0 win in another city of the world."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)