A good performance in goal from Victor Valdés who seemingly cannot catch a lucky break. Even in a match like this, where he completed all of his passes and faced no shots on goal, Valdés managed to concede – to a Javier Mascherano own-goal.
Shots/Shots on Target5/2
If you look up "versatile" in the dictionary, don’t be surprised when you see a picture of Adriano’s face staring right back at you (terrible pun intended). All joking aside, Adriano has proved himself to be a valuable member of the squad and if that means filling in at centre-half or right-back, then so be it. His cross for Jordi Alba’s winner was as brilliant as it was vital; a little more swerve and it would have evaded the Spaniard, a little less and it would have been intercepted, but he got it just right and well, the rest is history. Surprisingly enough, Adriano also registered the second-most shots on target of the night behind Lionel Messi but ahead of the entire Celtic team. Oh, and did anyone else notice how Adriano provided the pass to Lionel Messi in the build-up to the equaliser?
Why on earth did Tito choose Alex Song at centre-half ahead of Marc Bartra? It’s a question that’s been bothering me for quite some time now, and after Bartra’s performance on Tuesday night, I wonder whether anyone can give me a reasonable answer. Bartra is younger than Alex Song, has played at centre-half longer than Alex Song – meaning he has more experience in that position – and crucially, he understands the system far better than the Cameroonian. Aside from set-pieces, Celtic barely threatened the Barcelona goal and one of the biggest reasons for this was Marc Bartra. With Gerard Piqué set to miss Saturday’s clash with Rayo Vallecano, I can only pray that Tito sees sense and keeps Bartra in the line-up.
Similar to Valdés in the Barcelona goal, it appears as though Javier Mascherano just cannot catch a break. Suspended for the next league game courtesy of two extremely questionable refereeing decisions, Mascherano’s appeal against that red card has been turned down – all this in the same week that he scores another own goal. Georgios Samaras’ header may have been destined for goal, but the deflection off Mascherano completely bamboozled Valdés and caused the goal. Aside from that, Mascherano was largely untested by the Celtic attack – not that he needed to be at his best with Bartra in support.
Shots/Shots on Target1/1
A man-of-the-match performance from Jordi Alba, whose last-minute goal was absolutely crucial – not just in securing the three points, but also in boosting morale at the club. It has made for agonizing viewing, but the elation these late goals provoke out of the players – and out of the fans – far eclipses that of a Manita, or a comfortable 2-0 win. Scoring a winner in the 54th minute for example is all well and good, but scoring that winner in the final minute, you must feel as though you are on top of the world – invincible even. However, there was more to Alba’s performance than that goal; over-lapping on the left, Alba posed more of a threat than Alexis Sanchez, and even then he didn’t neglect his defensive duties. Just like Alves was arguably the best signing in the Pep Guardiola era, Jordi Alba might just turn out to be the best signing under Tito Vilanova.
Get ready to savour this moment folks – with Alex Song in his natural defensive midfield position I can finally write something nice about the Cameroonian. The only trouble is, no matter how well Song plays at pivote, he will never displace Sergio Busquets. Regardless, Song played well on Tuesday, stopping a number of Celtic attacks in their infancy and keeping the ball rolling in the middle of the park. It’s true, he does lack the finesse of a Sergio Busquets, or even of a Yaya Toure, but he’s a good player in his own right, but please, for the love of all that’s good in the world, just keep him away from centre-back.
Shots/Shots on Target3/2
A majestic showing from the Best Player in Europe, who, in my opinion at least, was the best player on the field Tuesday night. Virtually every noteworthy chance created by the Blaugrana involved Andrés Iniesta at some stage and with Lionel Messi a little way off his best, it was absolutely critical that Iniesta delivered the goods to ensure that Barca avoided what could have been a humiliating upset. Iniesta took his goal exceptionally well after playing a nice one-two with Xavi, slotting the ball past Fraser Forster with ease courtesy of a deft first touch which set the shot up nicely. His delightful scoop pass deserves a mention as well – if it wasn’t for Forster’s spectacular save, Iniesta’s 20:20 vision could well have sewn up the three points well before injury time.
Shots/Shots on Target3/0
Record-breaking stuff from our midfield maestro who attempted a staggering 184 passes on Tuesday night (according to WhoScored.com). That stat varies depending on where you read, with some claiming that Xavi completed more passes than Celtic did in the entire match, but what’s important is that Xavi managed to create a whole heap of chances with his record-breaking tally of passes. What’s more, Xavi also kept his accuracy phenomenally high at 97% – La Máquina, Xavi Hernández!
Shots/Shots on Target2/1
Now we get to the disappointing section of today’s ratings – the two wingers. Thankfully, we have Messi in the middle to brighten things up, but there is no escaping the fact that both Alexis and Pedro were poor on Tuesday. Sanchez did have a couple of chances to score, one in the early stages of the match, and another sandwiched between a couple of Fraser Forster’s saves against Messi, but aside from that, he contributed very little to Barcelona’s attack. Sanchez’ presence in the side pushed Pedro out to the left – a position where he has struggled in the past – but all would have been forgiven if he had simply done something, anything to help the cause. Alexis did not stretch the play – which would have been quite useful against such a compact defense – and as a result, I struggle to see how he will get into the side if/when Barcelona progress to the latter stages. At this point in time, I’m simply counting the days until Isaac Cuenca returns.
Shots/Shots on Target8/3
There were reports at the weekend suggesting that Tito Vilanova was looking to rest Lionel Messi for against Deportivo, but due to the frantic nature of the match, Messi stayed on and completed the full 90 minutes – which is perhaps why Barcelona suffered on Tuesday night. Granted, Messi did play a part in the equalising goal and he could have helped himself to a hat-trick if it wasn’t for some wayward finishing/heroic goalkeeping from Fraser Forster, but this wasn’t a classic performance from La Pulga. While threatening from dead-ball situations, Messi gave the ball away often and couldn’t establish a rhythm up against a resolute Celtic defense.
Shots/Shots on Target1/0
I wasn’t particularly nice about Alexis, so it’s only fair I go equally hard on Pedro for his lack-lustre performance on the left-wing. While he got involved in the match far more than David Villa did against Deportivo, Pedro simply could not impact the proceedings anywhere near as much as Tito would have hoped. Considering this is the very same man who cannot stop scoring for the Spanish national team, this really was a disappointing showing.
A solid cameo performance from Cristian Tello who offers so much off the bench – especially against teams with an approach like Celtic. First of all, Tello has pace, which is the last thing defenders want to come up against after 75+ minutes of backs to the wall defending, and secondly, Tello can be a good finisher – well, some of the time anyway. His sheer presence on the field has to create a little more space for the Barca attack, which is always a plus point.
Shots/Shots on Target2/0
Just like Cristian Tello, opposition defenders must dread seeing David Villa come off the bench – as all their hard-work could be undone if they give El Guaje even an inch of space. Villa only had eight touches of the ball on Tuesday and he still came close to scoring. Now, if he could only have the same impact in the starting XI...
Shots/Shots on Target28/10
Aerial Battles Won42%
Despite claiming the three points, it was a far from vintage display by the Blaugrana. Yes, Celtic are better than many pundits made them out to be – every match in the UEFA Champions League is a battle – but it should have been easier than this. Now, I’m not asking for a Manita, but can we please refrain from leaving it so late? I don’t think my heart can take much more of the strain.
An odd match for Tito, as there were a couple of choice selection decisions – why was Martin Montoya dropped, and why was Cesc left out of the starting XI are two questions that could be asked – although both Adriano and Xavi played very well indeed. Maybe the substitutes could have been made earlier, but again, it all turned out well in the end.
|MOTM - Jordi Alba
Jordi Alba claimed his first Barca Blaugranes MoTM award with the goal undoubtedly swaying the community to vote for our marauding left-back. After a string of great performances, it's a well-deserved award, although I would have voted for Bartra.