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UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 6-1 Celtic FC: Match Review

Recap of the action from Barcelona comfortable 6-1 victory over Celtic in the Champions League

Denis Doyle

FC Barcelona thrashed Celtic FC in the last round of the Group Stages in the Champions League. In what was one of the best attacking performances by Barcelona since Gerardo Martino took charge, the Catalan club scored half a dozen goals against the Scottish side. Led by Neymar, who scored his first Barça hat-trick, Barcelona also got goals from Gerard Pique, Pedro and Cristian Tello. In the late stage of the game Georgios Samaras gave Celtic a consolidation goal.

FC Barcelona

Celtic FC




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Failing to earn a point against Ajax that would've secured Barcelona the first place in Group H with a game in hand, Gerardo Martino fielded a strong, experienced line-up with few surprises to face Celtic. While the forward three was as strong as Barcelona can currently field, Sergi Roberto got a surprise but deserving start alongside Xavi in the center of the midfield. Struggling center-back duo of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano started in the heart of the defense, much to the dismay of Barcelona fans who were screaming for Marc Bartra who was left in the stands.

Barça started the game from midfield and didn't give up more than a deflection to Celtic until 100 seconds into the game. The early command of the ball gave Barcelona a quick chance to open the scoring, but Xavi's cross went just over Neymar's head. Soon after Barcelona went on a 3 on 2 counter attack, but Neymar's poor pass to Xavi went out of play.

The hosts continued to bring good numbers forward and Celtic struggled to contain Barcelona's attacks. Several of them ended with late blocks and chances looked good for Barcelona that at some point the block would be too late. Well, Barça didn't need to wait long for that to happen. In the 7th minute, after a Barcelona corner, Alexis Sanchez recovered the ball on the right side of the box and made a nice move to win space for a shot on goal. The shot was tipped on its way on goal which forced Fraser Forster to make a good save, but the rebound fell to Pique who roofed it to put the Catalans in the lead.

With the lead in hand Barcelona continued to exert pressure on Celtic's back four. Alexis and Neymar were especially active in the build-up, but both full-backs, Martin Montoya and Adriano Correia, were also very involved in Barça's attacks.

Celtic, meanwhile, struggled mightily to connect together more than three passes. Barça's pressing was noticeable all over the pitch and it caused numerous turnovers that led to several counter attacks.

Barcelona were just too much to handle for Celtic and considering the amount of chances in the opening half hour it was very surprising that Forster only conceded one goal. Neymar, Montoya, Alexis and Pique (again) all saw their chances go begging.

Jose Manuel Pinto got first involved in the game in the 32nd minute when he had to punch out a Celtic free kick. Coincidentally, that punch-out sprung a Barcelona counter, but Neymar was unable to find Pedro in the middle. On the next play Neymar exhibited some of the most impressive dribbling this season, but came across one defender too many and wasn't able to threaten Forster.

At that point the game opened up a bit and Celtic were presented with a couple scoring opportunities, but both Pique and Mascherano made good defensive plays to clear the danger.

But Barcelona weren't rattled by those chances and quickly went back to the attack, where they looked very comfortable. And five minute before the halftime whistle Pedro was able to double Barcelona's lead. Once again Pique was a key member in the goal as he won the ball in midfield and sprung Neymar behind the Celtic defensive line. Near the goal-line the Brazilian sent a hard, low cross to the middle where Pedro applied the finish.

However, that would not be the last goal by Barcelona in the first half. At the stroke of halftime Alexis brilliantly found the onrushing Montoya who squared it to Neymar who was left all alone in front of a wide open net. A simple tap in later Barcelona's lead was extended to three and Neymar had his first Champions League goal.

The halftime break brought one substitution on the Celtic side where Neil Lennon resorted to damage limitation, replacing striker, Teemu Pukki, with a defensively minded player, Charlie Mulgrew.

But that didn't seem to make any difference for Barcelona as just two and a half minutes after the restart Neymar added his second of the game. Neymar played a lovely one-two with Xavi just outside of the penalty box which gave the Brazilian enough room to fire on goal and further extend Barcelona's lead.

Though that didn't appear to satisfy the Catalan side as just three minutes later Neymar won a free kick 25 yards from the Celtic goal. Xavi steeped up to take it and put a good shot on goal, though slightly down the middle, but Forster was able to keep the ball from crossing the line for a fifth time.

Celtic seemed to play the second half completely without confidence and it showed in their defending as Barcelona found it increasingly easier to create chances. Add to that the sheer brilliance of Neymar and you have a manita in the 58th minute. Receiving the ball from Adriano on the left side of the penalty box, Neymar proceeded to make Efe Ambrose look like a fool and applied a good finish to complete the hat-trick (in 13 minutes) and the manita.

With the game all but decided Tata Martino went on to make his first substitution earlier than usually. Alexis, who had a good game even though statistically he didn't have much to show for, gave way to Tello, who made his first appearance since 10 November. Five minutes later Neymar had a one-on-one chance to add his fourth of the night, but after making his way past the keeper he ran into Pedro and neither was able to apply the finish.

Tata's first substitution appeared to be the right one as Tello also got in on the scoring in the 72nd minute. Adriano found Tello on the edge of the box from where the young winger fired on goal. The ball hit Virgil van Dijk along the way, changed direction and made its way into the unguarded part of the net.

Maybe feeling a bit left out, considering he wasn't involved in Barcelona's sixth goal, Neymar was a bit selfish two minutes later when he tried to do everything himself even though he had options on either side. The play he made to win space for the shot was brilliant though and had Forster not saved the shot it would've been one helluva goal.

With the remaining two substitutions Tata gave Sergio Busquets some much needed rest, he was replaced by Alex Song, and allowed Neymar to come off to a standing ovation by the crowd when he was replaced by Jean Marie Dongou.

In the dying stages of the game Celtic earned a couple scoring chances, one of them even resulted in a consolidation goal, scored by Georgios Samaras. Samaras made Barcelona pay with a header on a free kick taken from the right side. The Greek forward would have another chance in the very last seconds of the game, but Pique cleared the ball off the line.

Despite the breakdown in defense in the last five minutes of the game Barcelona played an excellent game and as a reward they finished the Group Stages of the Champions League in first place. That will, at least should, give the Catalans a less difficult opponent once the knockout stages begin.

But there will be no time for Barcelona to celebrate as they have another difficult game in the La Liga coming up. After the hiccup against Athletic Bilbao, Barça can't afford to drop points on Saturday when Villarreal visits the Camp Nou. But if this game is any indication the Yellow Submarine could be in danger of heavy bombardment.

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