Messi hits a brace as Barca bundle Celtic out of Champions League

simple_mind Nov 24, 2016 0

Messi

Messi

Celtic were eliminated from European competition as Barcelona won to secure top spot in Champions League Group C.

Lionel Messi struck the opener from Neymar’s sumptuous pass, and only a stunning Craig Gordon save prevented Luis Suarez from heading home a second.

Moussa Dembele spurned Celtic’s best chance before Messi scored a penalty.

Though Celtic can still draw level on points with Borussia Monchengladbach in third, the German side have a superior head-to-head record.

Brendan Rodgers’ side remain on two points, having lost twice to Barca – who opened the group stage with a 7-0 win over Celtic – and at home to Gladbach.

The Scottish champions, who came through two rounds of qualifiers and a play-off to reach the group stage, visit Manchester City on 6 December, when Barcelona host the German side.

City and Barca have qualified for the last 16, with Gladbach dropping into the Europa League in the New Year.

Rodgers said his team learned all the bitter lessons from the annihilation in Barcelona, and it showed in the early minutes.

Celtic were focused and aggressive. Scott Brown dumped Sergio Busquets on the floor to the roars of the home crowd and there was an aggression about their work that suggested there would be no repeat of the embarrassment of the Nou Camp.

Class won out, though. Barcelona’s threat grew as the opening half wore on. Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes went close before the breakthrough came, a familiar act of ruthlessness from two of the planet’s most unforgiving talents.



Barcelona scored their first goal courtesy of a classic piece of telepathy between Neymar and Messi. Celtic did not seem to be in much danger mere seconds before the ball was in their net. They had nine defenders behind the ball and, seemingly, everything under control.

When Neymar took possession on the left their problems began. Nobody pressed him quickly enough. The Brazilian had time to take a look and size up the situation. What he saw was four Celtic defenders waiting for his cross, then a corridor of space, then another five Celtic men behind the corridor.

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Into the space ran Messi, as he does. At the precise moment he began his run, Neymar dinked in his delivery, a thing of weighted precision that Messi lashed past Gordon at his near post.

It could have got worse for Celtic very quickly. Messi put in a cross from the right just before the break and, from point-blank range, Suarez could not put it home. Gordon made a terrific save to delay the pain.

Suarez was denied by Gordon, but won the penalty that clinched Barcelona’s win
Two pivotal moments

James Forrest came on for the injured Scott Sinclair at the break and it was the winger who created a golden chance of an equaliser. His cross was met by Dembele, but the striker could not get enough power into his header to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen. It was a big chance, and how Celtic Park groaned in that moment.

Their angst only intensified a few minutes later when Emilio Izaguirre pulled down Suarez and conceded the penalty that Messi converted. It was his fifth goal against Celtic in two Champions League matches this season and his 92nd in the competition overall. Otherworldly.

The rest of it was a procession for Barcelona. Neymar, on a yellow card following a clash with Mikael Lustig, was a bit fortunate not to be sent off before he was taken off, having gone in rashly in a separate challenge on Lustig. The Celtic Park crowd let him have it as he went. Neymar could not have cared less.

One of the last acts was another glaring miss from Suarez from more sumptuous build-up play from Messi. It hardly mattered. Celtic were out of the game, out of the Champions League – and out of Europe.







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