FC Barcelona, who would have qualified as group winners had they won tonight at Celtic Park, have instead lost for only the second time this season
The three points were a far bigger return than the hoops deserved from a bizarre game in which they scored with their only two serious attempts on goal
Messi narrowed the gap in injury time, but this time it was too late for miracles
Barça have surrendered at Celtic Park only their second defeat of the season, and the first in the Champions League. The Scots can feel very fortunate to have survived the Barça onslaught and come out of this with a win, having only made only two attempts on goal while Barça dominated the possession from start to finish and hit the woodwork twice.
Barça’s first away defeat in the group stage of the Champions League since 2006 doesn’t affect their leadership of Group G or seriously endanger their chances of making it into the last sixteen. But they will be frustrated not to have taken this opportunity to ensure passage as group winners, and instead will have to go Moscow in search of what they were unable to achieve in Glasgow.
One corner is enough
The first half developed exactly as most pundits had expected. FC Barcelona had almost all of the possession and were in total command of the midfield, while Celtic were content to sit back and defend en masse and look for openings on the counter attack. These were few and far between, and as if they had already scored half a goal, Celtic Park erupted when the green and whites got their first corner. But the famously vociferous home supporters had reason to feel optimistic. Wanyama was waiting at the far post, had Alba well beaten in the air, and Paradise erupted in jubilation
Cheated by the woodwork
The setback did nothing to disrupt the Barça game-plan. Tito Vilanova’s charges continued their siege of the goal defended by Forster and a nine-man guard strategically placed around the area. Playing their typically patient waiting game, Barça didn’t panic and the chances started coming. The two clearest, which fell to Messi and Alexis, both struck the woodwork, and the Catalans were still a goal down at the break.
Watt doubles home advantage
The second half brought more of the same. FC Barcelona had Celtic completely pinned back in their own half, where the Scots defended with such extraordinary defiance that for 45 minutes Barcelona barely managed a shot on goal. And when they did come, home keeper Forster was on hand to display the very best of his remarkable reflexes. Having lapped up the pressure for most of the half, Celtic suddenly found new life, and would have made it two had Bartra not brilliantly made up from an earlier error to deny Mulgrew.
But the home side were more fortunate moments later when a long clearance following a Messi free kick was collected by Watt, who showed tremendous composure in placing the ball beyond Valdés. Unbelievably, Celtic were 2-0 up.
Too late from Messi
Barça have starred in some amazing historic comebacks of late, and once again didn’t give hope. With the game already into injury time, Messi showed brilliant opportunism to pounce on a loose ball in the Celtic area and pull one back for the visitors. The final seconds saw Barça throwing everything they had into attack as they searched for an equaliser, but it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, despite the defeat, Barça remain strongly poised for a place in the second round, where judging by what we saw tonight, Celtic could well be joining them.