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  • The Story of... Naka's Man Utd free-kick

    The Story of... Naka's Man Utd free-kick

    By: Joe Donnelly on 01 Apr, 2020 17:01

  • 'The Story Of' is a web series dedicated to small but special tales from Celtic’s illustrious history. Today, we look back at Shunsuke Nakamura's perfect set-piece goal...

    Shunsuke Nakamura gave Celtic fans memories to last a lifetime during his four years at Celtic, and one in particular made for a historic night at Paradise as the Man from Japan helped sink the Red Devils.

    The Japanese internationalist signed for Celtic in July 2005 but had to wait until his second season for his first taste of European football in the Hoops. Celtic gained automatic entry into the Champions League for the 2006/07 season after winning the league title during Nakamura’s inaugural campaign with Celtic.

    A 28-year-old Nakamura returned from the World Cup in Germany that summer ready to make significant strides forward with his club after a promising first season at Paradise, and he did exactly that. Having fully adapted to Scottish football, Nakamura went on to a have sensational season.

    Celtic were drawn into Group F for the UEFA Champions League that year alongside FC Copenhagen, Benfica and Manchester United.

    Matchday 1 saw Gordon Strachan’s side travel south to the Theatre of Dreams to take on Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. It was Nakamura’s first European game for Celtic and the midfielder scored a wonderful free-kick from 25 yards. However, it wasn’t enough to salvage any points from the game as United ran out 3-2 winners.

    Celtic were on six points by the time the return leg rolled around on Matchday 5. The visitors looked confident from start but Gordon Strachan’s side limited their chances in front of goal. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney threatened with goal scoring chances in the first period and the Portuguese midfielder came close in the 77th minute.

    With 10 minutes remaining Celtic won a free-kick, and there was only ever one man who was going to take it. The set-piece was some 30 yards from goal, a goal in which Edwin van der Sar, one of the world's best goalkeepers, stood.

    There was nothing the brilliant Dutchman could do to stop Nakamura’s world class set piece, though. The Japanese midfielder bent a left-footed curler into the top corner, inches out of reach of the outstretched arms of Van der Sar. It was, and will forever be remembered as, one of the greatest free-kicks anyone has ever seen.

    Artur Boruc saved a Louis Saha penalty late on in the game to protect Celtic’s lead and ensure Nakamura’s free-kick would be remembered as the goal that put Celtic through to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time.

    Reflecting on the goal after the game, Nakamura summed it up as the most important of his career.

    "I was very pleased to score, and it was nice it was at Celtic Park,” said Nakamura. “But I also made a lot of mistakes and I have to think about that, too.

    “The best thing is that we're through to the last 16 because I know this is something the club has not done before. It was probably the most important goal of my career because it was such a big game."

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