UEFA Champions League: Celtic FC 0-1 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Richard Heathcote

A recap of Barcelona's 1-0 Champions League win against Celtic FC

A solitary goal by Cesc Fabregas was enough for FC Barcelona to record a hard fought victory in Scotland against Celtic FC. The Scots played a very organized game, but were undone by a red card shown to their captain Scott Brown in the second half.


Celtic


Barcelona


Possession


18%


82%


Total Shots


5


13


Shots on Target


2


5


Pass Accuracy


62%


90%


Fouls


18


10


Offsides


2


5


Yellow Cards


3


3


Red Cards


1


0


Maybe with last season's defeat at Celtic Park still looming in the back of Barcelona's mind Gerardo Martino decided to play it "safe" as he fielded arguably the strongest available lineup. The injured Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano were replaced by Fabregas and Marc Bartra. Maybe surprisingly, but maybe not, Alexis Sanchez stayed on the bench with Pedro starting on the right wing.

The game started with Barcelona kicking off from midfield amid incredibly loud cheering from the Celtic faithful. It took the hosts a minute and forty-two seconds for their first touch of the ball - which came on a simple blocked pass by Emilio Izaguirre. Barcelona held possession for basically the opening five minutes, but not once were they able to shoot on goal - and yes, I'm intentionally not counting Dani Alves' "shot" as a shot.

Celtic, however, were able to test Victor Valdes on their first venture forward. After a couple lovely one-touch passes Georgios Samaras escaped the defense, but his shot from a tight angle was well saved by the Barcelona goalkeeper.

Barcelona continued to dominate possession, but struggled to break through the defensively very organized Celtic side. There were no problems getting to the penalty box, from either flank or through the middle, but there was simply no space to get closer. And long range shots also weren't doing the trick because none of them were even on target.

The Catalan's defense, on the other side, didn't look very confident. Every time the hosts came into Barcelona's third there was always a chance that Valdes would have to bail out his defensive line. Samaras especially was very active, causing quite some problems because of his size.

For Barcelona the most active player was without a question Neymar who was making plays on the left wing as well as through the middle. And just for good measure he was also making plays on the right side. When on the left side Neymar combined very well with Adriano, who spent many minutes right alongside the forward in an attempt to catch Celtic outnumbered.

With the injury bug apparently making its way through the Barcelona squad recently Neymar caused another scare. In what appeared to be a simple play Neymar got the worst end of a head clash and even needed some time on the sidelines to gather himself. Alexis immediately started to warm up, but the substitution was in the end not needed.

Neymar actually looked like he hadn't lost a step as he nearly put Barcelona in front in the 40th minute. Alves supplied a rare inch perfect cross that the forward very nearly half-volleyed inside the posts. At the stroke of halftime Neymar won a free kick on the left side of the penalty box. Xavi aimed for the far post, but Fraser Forster, the Celtic goalkeeper, got just enough of the ball to tip it out for a corner kick. Nothing resulted from the corner, and the teams went into their dressing rooms scoreless.

The game restarted with neither team making any substitutions, but both sides looked more focused in attack. Especially Celtic caused a lot of problems to the Barça backline as the Scots started the half by pressing higher up the pitch.

But Neymar continued to be a thorn in Celtic's side and that was very evident in the 60th minute when Celtic captain Brown brought the Brazilian down from behind. The referee immediately took a yellow card from his pocket, but when he saw a late kicking motion by the Celtic man and Neymar in pain on the ground that play resulted in an early bath for Brown.

With the man advantage Barcelona brought everybody forward, but now Celtic were in an even more defensive formation, with eight men, plus the goalkeeper, inside their 25-yard line. There really was very little room for Barcelona to operate, but even when the visitors managed to take a shot it wasn't on target.

However, even though they were a man down Celtic remained dangerous. Substitute James Forrest, who came on the pitch about a minute earlier, fired a powerful shot from inside the penalty box that Valdes somehow tipped over the crossbar. The hosts had another chance from the ensuing corner kick, but that attempts went just wide of the post.

Tata Martino then made his first substitution, he replaces Pedro with Alexis, and it proved to be a very good move as Alexis would be crucial in Barcelona's goal that came a minute later. Neymar supplied a good pass to Alexis, who took the ball further down the right flank. He then sent a perfect cross to Cesc in the middle who headed it on goal for the lead.

Two minutes later Cristian Tello made his first Champions League appearance of the season as he replaced the goalscorer, Cesc.

Barcelona fairly easily maintained possession as even though the hosts were down 1-0 they seemed content to sit back and wait for a chance on the counter attack. But those chances did come with Samaras causing a lot of problems to Pique. But the Scots were left frustrated by the lack of the final pass.

Barcelona had an excellent opportunity to put the game out of reach in the 87th minute when Neymar fired from the edge of the box, but Forster made a fantastic save. Alexis then tried to bury the rebound, but he too was bested by the Celtic goalkeeper. Neymar had another chance to score his first Champions League goal in added time when he was played through by Alexis, but Forster won the one-on-one battle.

In the end the misses didn't matter as Celtic weren't able to beat Valdes meaning that the lone goal by Cesc was enough for Barcelona to remain perfect in the Champions League.

FC Barcelona will again be in action on Saturday when they will host Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou. Valladolid have so far managed to win just a single game, at home against Getafe, but they will try to remain undefeated on the road this season - they have drawn both away games.

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