GROUP H – Tuesday 1st October 2013
CELTIC 0-1 BARCELONA
Ten-man Celtic failed to keep out Barcelona for the full 90 minutes at Parkhead on Tuesday as former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas’ header put them to the bottom of the group. As they made sure, a repeat of last season’s defeat didn’t happen again.
Celtic started with Teemu Pukki on the bench, Lennon instead opted for Stokes as his main striker and Samaras and Matthews wide of him in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Tata Martino played Fabregas in Messi’s false nine position, along with Pedro and Neymar on the flanks.
The game followed a very clear pattern of play, Barcelona would keep the ball and probe the Celtic defence, while the home side would have eleven men behind the ball and maybe even the pus parked in front of their goal.
Although the first five minutes went like that then Celtic created a half chance. Commons and Samaras whose link-up play was so effective against Kilmarnock on Saturday forced a save from Victor Valdes. Celtic seemed to settle better in the early stages before the Catalans took control. In a good period of pressure, Dani Alves fed Fabregas who saw his shot blocked before Neymar fired his long-range shot wide. As Barca kept the pressure on, Andres Iniesta was next to shoot high and wide after some good crisp passing. Barca were bossing the match in every department, but were struggling to create any real clear-cut chances. Some good combination play down the left-hand side between Neymar and Adriano ended with the left-back in behind Celtic’s defence only for his shot to hit the side-netting. By this point Barca had Celtic pinned back the home side were struggling to get any passing movements going and to keep the ball at all. Another lovely passing move out to the right side this time Pedro crossed and Neymar attacked the ball at the near post but his effort went wide. To end the half Celtic almost fell behind, Matthews chopped Neymar to the ground. Xavi almost caught Forster out at his far post from his swirling free-kick effort but the big Englishman did well to claw the ball behind, as the teams went in level at the break.
The second half continued in the same pattern, Barca having the lion’s share of possession, although it was Brown who had the first effort on goal of the half, but it went harmlessly wide of Valdes as he stood and watched. Three minutes before the hour the turning point of the game arrived; Neymar broke from a Celtic corner down the left, Celtic captain Scott Brown fouled him from behind then appeared to kick out. The referee went straight to his top pocket and produced the red card. It was totally justified. With ten men Celtic were pushed even further back even Samaras was making tackles in the left-back position. Barca defender Marc Bartra was next to warm the gloves of Forster with a long-range shot. Barca introduced Alexis Sanchez for Pedro with twenty minutes left, it would almost give instant success he was involved when Neymar and Xavi played a neat one-two only for the Brazilian superstar slice his shot wide. Celtic almost then hit Barca with a sucker punch Mulgrew’s long throw was only half cleared by the Barca rearguard, James Forrest was on hand to force and good save from Victor Valdes. From the resulting corner, Mulgrew managed to head wide from about 8 yards out when it looked easier to score. They were made to regret that missed chance just four minutes later, Barca played an uncharacteristic long ball to Neymar he controlled, played Sanchez in down the right flank, the Chilean then crossed for Fabregas to angle his head back across goal and over Forster to give Los Cules the lead. With five minutes left Izaguirre was lucky to escape with just a booking after his two-footed lunge on Bartra. Forster was kept busy in the final stages; he made three good stops twice to deny Neymar and one sprawling save to deny Alexis Sanchez.
Celtic set up for a point, if it wasn’t for the pettiness of their captain they may well have achieved their objective. If they don’t take four points from Ajax in the double header it looks like they will be heading out of Europe before Christmas.
Celtic: Forster; Lustig (Forrest, 70’), Ambrose, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Mulgrew; Matthews, Commons (Pukki 86’), Samaras; Stokes, (Kayal 70’)
Barcelona: Victor Valdes; Dani Alves, Bartra, Pique, Adriano; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta (Song 89’); Pedro (Sanchez 74’), Fabregas (Tello 79’), Neymar
Goals: Fabregas 76’
Red Cards: Brown 59’
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