Cesc Fabregas struck 15 minutes from time to sink a spirited ten-man Celtic and maintain Barcelona’s unbeaten start to the season, avenging defeat in this Champions League fixture from last term.
Bhoys boss Neil Lennon had virtually a full strength squad to choose from for Barca’s visit. Welsh midfielder Joe Ledley was the only absentee. Finnish forward Teemu Pukki dropped to the bench.
Celtic pinned hopes on attacking trio Anthony Stokes, recently recalled by the Republic of Ireland, Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons. Charlie Muglrew continued in central midfield.
Barcelona coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino meanwhile was still without key members of his defence. Lionel Messi missed out with a thigh problem, so Cesc Fabregas started as the false 9.
Lennon’s lad set their stall out early to contain Barcelona and break on the counterattack. Celtic found this tactic effective early on, but also failed to trouble the Barca backline.
Possession football eventually followed from the visitors, but tiki taka yielded nothing tangible in terms of chances. A lacklustre first half thus drew a close, and there were little signs of the deadlock being broken after the break.
That was until a controversial sending off changed the complexion of this tie. Celtic skipper Scott Brown saw a straight red for what looked on first viewing to be a mere push on Neymar. Replays revealed the home captain kicked out at the Brazilian superstar.
Barcelona found controlling possession even easier with a man advantage, but it was the Bhoys who had the better chances. Substitute James Forrest forced a good save from Victor Valdes, and from the resulting corner, Mulgrew headed wide.
Celtic were then fatally caught on the counter. Alexis Sanchez was released into space where he crossed for Fabregas to head home. All the hosts’ hard work was undone.
Fraser Forster pulled off a terrific double save in the closing stages with Barca looking to seal victory. Lennon will wonder what might have been had Brown not seen red, but it is two losses from two Champions League outings for the Bhoys.
This always was a tough group for the Glasgow giants and already it looks as though they will have to settle for the wooden spoon. Barcelona meanwhile top the group as AC Milan drew with Ajax.
- Celtic: 1 Fraser Forster, 23 Mikael Lustig (49 James Forrest 70′), 4 Efe Ambrose, 5 Virgil van Dijk, 3 Emilio Izaguirre, 2 Adam Matthews, 8 Scott Brown (c), 21 Charlie Mulgrew, 9 Georgios Samaras, 15 Kris Commons (20 Teemu Pukki 86′), 10 Anthony Stokes (33 Beram Kayal 70′) 4-4-1-1
- Barcelona: 1 Victor Valdes, 22 Dani Alves, 3 Gerard Pique, 15 Marc Bartra, 21 Adriano Correia, 6 Xavi Hernandez (c), 16 Sergio Busquets, 8 Andres Iniesta (17 Alex Song 89′), 7 Pedro Rodriguez (9 Alexis Sanchez 74′), 4 Cesc Fabregas (20 Cristian Tello 78′), 11 Neymar 4-3-3
- Goals: Cesc Fabregas 75′
- Possession: Celtic 18%-82% Barcelona