UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 2-1 Celtic: Match Review

David Ramos

A lack-lustre Barcelona left it late to secure their 100th UEFA Champions League win as a late goal from Jordi Alba dashed Celtic's dreams of an upset. The Hoops took the lead through a Javier Mascherano own-goal (which may be credited to Georgios Samaras), but Barcelona levelled through Andres Iniesta and just when it looked as though they would have to settle for a point, Jordi Alba struck in the final minute of injury-time.

A lack-lustre Barcelona left it late to secure their 100th UEFA Champions League win as a late goal from Jordi Alba ensured that the Blaugrana maintained their 100% group stage record. The Hoops took the lead through a Javier Mascherano own-goal (which may be credited to Georgios Samaras), but Barcelona levelled through Andres Iniesta and just when it looked as though they would have to settle for a point, Jordi Alba struck in the final minute of injury-time.

Barcelona

Celtic

Possession

82%

18%

Total Shots

28

6

Shots on Target

10

1

Pass Accuracy

93%

75%

Fouls

10

11

Offsides

1

1

Yellow Cards

2

0

Red Cards

0

0

Tito Vilanova made five changes from Saturday’s epic victory over Deportivo as Xavi Hernández, Alexis Sanchez, Adriano Correia and Pedro Rodriguez were all restored to the starting XI, while Marc Bartra started in central defense for the first time under Tito Vilanova. With Sergio Busquets missing out through suspension, Alex Song filled in at pivote. Players in their natural positions, a bona-fide centre-half in defense; surely the Blaugrana would benefit and record their 100th UEFA Champions League win?

Barcelona started well and could have taken an early lead through Alexis Sanchez, but the Chilean dragged his right-footed shot wide of Fraster Forster’s far post. Marc Bartra also had an early chance, forcing a good save out of the young Englishman with a header from point-blank range, but it wasn’t exactly a vintage start from Barca. Sure, Celtic were sitting deep and making life difficult for the Catalans, but the majority of teams visiting the Camp Nou play in a similar fashion – and still lose. What made Celtic any different? Well, it appeared as though they had lady luck on their side as they took the lead with what was probably their first chance of the night.

The delivery was superb as Charlie Mulgrew swung in a tantalising cross from the right-hand side and there to meet it was the tallest player on the field – Georgios Samaras. In truth, he didn’t connect particularly cleanly with his header, but that wasn’t to matter as the ball ricocheted off Javier Mascherano’s back and spun into the back of the net. Against all the odds, Celtic were ahead at the Camp Nou.

With a goal advantage, Celtic dropped a little deeper, inviting Barcelona forward, but the Blaugrana were having difficultly creating chances from open play. Lennon had sent out his team to narrow the field, and Barcelona’s wing-play had been particularly disappointing with Jordi Alba the only bright point out wide. Lionel Messi went close on two separate occasions with free-kicks, curling two efforts just over, but still, Barcelona were creating very little from open play. With Celtic defending so well, it was going to take something special for Barca to get that equaliser they so desperately wanted – and special is what we got.

Lionel Messi started the move from the right-hand side, finding the run of Andrés Iniesta with a perfectly weighted pass. Iniesta could have played the return to Messi, or he could have turned towards goal, but that would have been the easy way out. That would have been what a normal player would have done, but as we well know, Iniesta is not your ordinary footballer – he’s the Best Player in Europe, and he thrives in pulling off the spectacular. Moving the ball on to his midfield partner Xavi, Iniesta then proceeded to run into space and Xavi found him with an equally brilliant pass. However, Iniesta’s work was not yet over – exhibiting exquisite technique, Andrés controlled Xavi’s pass and slotted the ball past Forster to make it 1-1.

Messi could have put Barca ahead with the final kick of the first-half but somewhat surprisingly the Argentine dragged his shot well wide of the target and the two sides went in at the break level.

Neither side made a change at the interval, and the match continued in a similar vein to the first-half. Barcelona dominated possession, but were creating very little in the way of clear-cut chances, while Celtic continued to sit deep and look for an opportunity to strike on the counter. The visitors could have taken the lead (again) as Barcelona failed to clear a corner, but just as Barca couldn’t clear their lines, Celtic failed to capitalise on the chance. Marc Bartra stopped a dangerous looking counter in full flow with a good block tackle, but as the half progressed, the momentum started to build and Barca really started to take control.

Messi tested Forster with a couple of straight-forward long-range shots, almost as though he was testing the water and Barcelona started to be a little more adventurous in their build-up. A nice interchange on the right-hand side resulted in a low cross being fizzled across goal and there to meet it was Lionel Messi, but Fraser Forster got across to deny the Argentine with a jaw-dropping save and repeated that feat a few minutes later, stopping Messi’s header after a delightful scooped pass split the Celtic defense.

It was time for a change; Cristian Tello took the field, replacing the ineffective Pedro as Barcelona pushed forward in search of a winner and he was soon joined by David Villa, with Alexis Sanchez the man to make way for El Guaje. Could Villa improve his formidable scoring record off the bench by grabbing the winner despite joining the action with less than ten minutes remaining? He certainly came the closest – Barca were pouring forward, Celtic were tiring with every passing second and El Guaje pounced, but his left-footed shot hit the outside of the post and rebounded away. Surely Barca would have to settle for a single point? Not if Jordi Alba could help it. The left-back got on the scoresheet on Saturday and he was at it again in the final minute of injury time, tapping in Adriano’s cross at the far post. Did Barcelona deserve it? Maybe, maybe not, but we’ll take it. Next up is a trip to Madrid where Barca will face Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

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