Villarreal 2 Celtic 0 (Agg:3-1)
By Graeme Bailey
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Last season's beaten finalists could not emulate their achievements of 12 months ago, as they were well beaten on the night by a Villarreal side who look well equipped to go all the way in the competition.
Villarreal scored in each half through Sonny Anderson and Roger - and they could have easily made the result more emphatic as Celtic were unusually off the pace.
Celtic endured a terrible start and barely got out of their half before the Spaniards had taken the lead.
The opener came from the right hand side via Brazilian Belletti - who crossed from deep. Bobo Balde looked favourite to win the ball but he backed off and that allowed the evergreen Anderson to nip in and head over David Marshall, who was caught in two minds.
Villarreal should have extended their lead ten minutes later when Jose Mari latched on to a brilliant pass from Juan Roman Riquelme and held off Balde, but he sliced his shot well wide.
The game was being masterfully orchestrated through Riquelme, who had been given far too much room by the Celtic midfield all evening.
The South American had the next chance himself, but he lashed his effort wide from the edge of the area.
Celtic finally produced their first effort just before the half hour, but it was a disappointing Stanislav Varga free kick, which was easily charged down by the Spanish wall.
Jackie McNamara looked Celtic's most likely outlet in the opening exchanges and he saw reasonable claims for a penalty dismissed after being bundled over by Villarreal captain Rodolfo Arruabarrena.
McNamara then created Celtic's best chance of the opening period when he crossed from the touchline to find Stephen Pearson at the back post - but the former Motherwell star could only head over from just 10 ten yards after out jumping the home defence.
Villarreal soon imposed themselves again on the tie as Belletti and Anderson almost combined once more to score.
Belletti again had the beating of Celtic defence and whipped in a cross for Anderson, but this time he could not re-direct his header.
Into the second period, Celtic still struggled to find their feet in the tie as Villarreal look to covert some of their possession into a crucial second goal.
The Bhoys did manage to get Henrik Larsson involved for the first time in the game as Didier Agathe crossed, but the Swede's excellent cushioned header back across goal was in vain as his team-mates merely watched the ball float wide.
Roger then wasted a great chance on the hour as he broke on the edge of the area, but lost his composure at the crucial time and snapped his shot well wide.
Anderson was the main danger for Villarreal and he had another great chance to add to his tally as he broke clear of the Celtic defence, but Balde made amends for his earlier error as he intercepted the Samba striker just as he was ready to pull the trigger.
The game began to open up as Celtic pushed forward looking for a goal, but they always ran the risk of conceding again and that is exactly what they did.
Referee Massimo De Santis played an excellent advantage after a Balde foul on the edge of the area and Jose Mari latched onto the loose ball before finding Anderson. The former Lyon star played a wonderful cross into the area and Joos Valgaeren missed the flight of the ball, which allowed Roger to lash an unstoppable volley past the hapless Marshall.
Celtic manager Martin O'Neill then introduced youngsters Ross Wallace and Jamie Smith for Pearson and Manchester United-bound Liam Miller - who both disappointed.
Smith and Wallace had little fear and they added some real spark to The Bhoys' display, but they could not lift a now demoralised side - who knew they would not repeat their feat of last year and make the final.