Previous encounters between Celtic and Barcelona

Neil Lennon tries to get to grips with Ronaldinho in 2004.  Tonight the Celtic manager will look for a second win over Barcelona as manager. Picture: Getty
Neil Lennon tries to get to grips with Ronaldinho in 2004. Tonight the Celtic manager will look for a second win over Barcelona as manager. Picture: Getty
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A PACKED Parkhead will tonight witness the renewal of a European rivalry spanning almost 50 years when Celtic entertain Barcelona. To whet the appetite for this evening’s Champions League clash we take a look back at the clubs’ previous clashes, including match reports from The Scotsman archive.

Barcelona are no strangers to Scotland, having played against Rangers, Hibernian and Dundee United in European competition, and a series of friendlies too in recent years, but it is with Celtic they have been paired with the most.

The Catalan club’s first taste of European action against a Scottish team was against Hibs in the 1960-61 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a famous tie which saw the Joe Baker-inspired Hibs draw 4-4 in the Nou Camp then win a stormy return game 3-2 at Easter Road. Baker’s unusual preparation for the second leg is featured in today’s edition of The Scotsman.

It was four years later that Barca and Celtic crossed paths, again in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.


Celtic had battled past Portuguese side Leixões in the first round of the 1964-65 competition, 4-1 on aggregate, while Barcelona received a bye.

The first leg at the Nou Camp took place on 18 November, 1964, and only a crowd of only 25,000 turned out for a match the home fans expected to be little more than a formality. The game marked the debut of goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson, who would go on to claim a special place in Celtic’s history three years later as one of the Lisbon Lions when the club became the first British side to lift the European Cup.

Celtic fell behind to early goals from Jose Antonio Zaldua and the Peruvian Juan Seminario, and their troubles worsened when Clark was rendered a virtual passenger when he picked up a thigh injury. Barcelona could have run riot, but Celtic won many admirers with a spirited defensive display, and pulled a goal back through John Hughes ten minutes after the interval. However, Barcelona left Celtic with a mountain to climb in the second leg when Joaquim Rife netted two minutes from time.

The Celtic team in the first leg was: Simpson; Young, Gemmell; Clark, McNeill, Kennedy; Johnstone, Cushley, Chalmers, Murdoch, Hughes

The second leg in Glasgow took place a fortnight later on 2 December 1964 and in a goalless draw Barcelona did a thoroughly professional job on Celtic, nullifying their threat and comfortably defending their first-leg advantage. Again Celtic’s efforts were hampered but injury as Stevie Chalmers was forced off, leaving his team-mates a man short for the final 15 minutes. The Celtic team that night was: Simpson, Young, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, O’Neil, Johnstone, Chalmers, Hughes Gallagher, Lennox.

2004: Uefa Cup

Forty years would pass before Celtic and Barcelona tangled again in Europe, but they made up for lost time - playing four European games against each other in one calendar year. They first met in the last 16 of the Uefa Cup during the 2003-2004 season - with Celtic’s run to the final in Seville in the previous season’s competitions still fresh in the memory.

Martin O’Neill’s side were drawn at home in the first leg on 11 March 2004, and recorded a famous 1-0 victory thanks to Alan Thompson’s close-range goal and a penalty save from young David Marshall - one in place of Rab Douglas, who was sensationally red carded at the interval after a melee in the tunnel. The team at Parkhead that night was: Douglas;

Varga, Balde, McNamara; Agathe, Pearson, Lennon, Petrov, Thompson (Sylla 83); Larsson, Beattie (Marshall 45).

Celtic then held firm in a tense second leg in the Nou Camp on 25 March, with Marshall once again outstanding to reach the quarter-finals.

A delighted O’Neill said: “It was a fabulous effort - the players are all out on their feet. They were amazing to keep going like they did. Some of our younger players really came of age out there.”

And turning to hero of the hour Marshall, the manager added: “He walked into the dressing room to fantastic applause from the rest of the side. I thought David Marshall was absolutely excellent and the players in front of him were terrific.

“He did a TV interview after the game and was the last one in the dressing room and when he came in there was an enormous applause for him off his team-mates. I didn’t say anything to him but just to try and go out and enjoy it. That was my only message to him. With David you just don’t know how he is because he is so laid back. I am sure he is nervous but he has a terrific presence and calmness. He doesn’t get fazed. I said to him after the game that it’s downhill from here – he should just retire after tonight.”

Unfortunately another Spanish side - Villarreal - halted their progress in the quarter-finals, but Celtic had nevertheless secured a famous victory. Celtic’s team in the second leg was: Celtic: Marshall, Agathe Varga, Kennedy McNamara, Petrov, Lennon, Pearson, Thompson, Larsson, Sutton

2004: Champions League

Just six months later the two clubs met again, this time in the Champions League group stages. The first meeting on 14 September saw Barcelona at their best - with a certain Henrik Larsson returning to Parkhead for the visitors and inevitably scoring. Barca ran out 3-1 winners on the night, with Larsson scoring the third goal. The other two goals came from Deco and Giuly - either side of a Chris Sutton goal for Celtic. David Marshall again proved he was a man for the big occasion by saving a penalty from Ronaldinho. Celtic’s team was: Marshall, Agathe, Balde, Varga, McNamara (Sylla 80), Petrov, Lennon, Thompson, Juninho Paulista (Sutton 45), Hartson (Valgaeren 63), Camara.

The return match against Barcelona in the Nou Camp on 24 November, 2004, saw Celtic raise their game and they earned an excellent 1-1 draw on the back of a spirited defensive display. Samuel Eto’o had given Barca the lead in the 25th minute, but Jon Hartson scrambled home an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. It was Celtic’s first away point in nine attempts in the Champions League group stages and it was thoroughly deserved. Celtic’s line-up was: Hedman, Agathe, Balde, Valgaeren, Varga (Camara 65), McNamara, Petrov, Lennon, Thompson (Wallace 86), Sutton, Hartson.


A Lionel Messi masterclass saw Barcelona edge a five-goal thriller when Celtic entertained the Catalans at Parkhead in the Champions League group stage on 20 February 2008.

Here is The Scotsman’s match report of a thriller....

CELTIC’S visit to Barcelona in 12 days’ time will undoubtedly serve to provide them with more experience of the giddying heights of European football, but it seems extremely unlikely to yield entry to the quarter- finals of the Champions League.

Despite leading twice in the first half last night through Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson, Gordon Strachan’s side once again capitulated to the star-filled Catalans, who came back with a double from Lionel Messi and one from Thierry Henry.

Not even the Scottish champions’ renowned home record in the tournament was proof against the pace and power of Barca, although they would be required to produce optimum work after Vennegoor of Hesselink had ignited another dazzling night at Celtic park.

That opening goal from the big Dutchman must have felt to Barcelona as if the gun they were pointing at their victim’s head had backfired into their own face. They would have been staggered to find the same thing happen again, when Robson restored Celtic’s advantage after Messi’s equaliser.

Both goals had been preceded by periods of sustained pressure by the visitors, during the first of which they would have established a potentially conclusive advantage but for the intervention of the Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

But, after the setback of Vennegoor of Hesselink’s strike, Bara demonstrated the recovery powers of an amphibian who regenerates lost limbs by equalising within two minutes, in truth giving the scoreline a more appropriate look, even that early in the match.

That Frank Rijkaard’s team should have been generally in control for the opening 15 minutes seemed to owe much to an apprehension among the Celtic players that, at times, bordered on timidity.

Happily for the huge support, the affliction proved to be temporary, the Scottish champions shrugging off the anxiety as the match progressed.

Even so, they could have sustained serious damage during the time they were beset by nervousness, most notably when Paul Hartley, playing a dangerous game of tippy-tappy with Lee Naylor on the edge of his own penalty area, had the ball stolen from him by Thierry Henry.

The great Frenchman cut the ball back to Andres Iniesta and the midfielder’s drive forced the first of Boruc’s saves.

The second was completed within seconds, this time from a volley by Henry as the red-and-blue stripes swarmed around the home goal, clearly intent on strangling Celtic’s challenge almost before it had a chance to come to life.

In fact, it exploded into existence with the first of their goals, from their first concerted move in the direction of Victor Valdes in the away goal. It was after Aiden McGeady was stopped in his run on the left that Scott McDonald took possession and played the ball out to Naylor.

The left-back’s cross was perfectly measured, allowing Vennegoor of Hesselink to move forward and then dive to bullet the header past Valdes from about the six-yard line.

The elation would last only two minutes before Messi equalised. If there was an element of luck about the finish, there was only brilliance about the build-up.

Messi moved inside from the right and supplied Deco before driving towards the bye-line in anticipation of the return.

The Brazil-born Portuguese did not disappoint his team-mate, sliding the pass into his path. But Naylor, who had tracked Messi, appeared to reach the ball first, having the misfortune to see his attempted clearance hit the ball off the foot of the Argentine, from where it drifted high into the far corner.

Even allowing for Celtic’s spirit and the occasional moments of accurate passing and intelligent moments they had produced, their regaining the advantage before the interval would have stunned their own support.

McGeady came inside from the left, peeling back defenders as he went and, suddenly, played a delicate chip forward to Robson.

The midfielder, a surprise selection in place of Massimo Donati, seemed to search for support before deciding simply to loop the header from 14 yards over the desperately stretching Valdes.

Having completed the remaining seven minutes to the interval without further harm, Celtic – or, more precisely, Gary Caldwell – then fell to the most frustrating aberration in the game, giving opponents who need no help from anyone a gift of an equaliser.

Caldwell, completely free of a challenge with the ball at his feet about 30 yards from goal, tried to slip a casual pass to Nakamura and simply played the ball straight to Ronaldinho.

The Brazilian quickly supplied Henry and the Frenchman relived his Arsenal days by coming in from the left and chipping the ball high into the far corner.

Nobody could possibly have argued with Barcelona’s right at least to be level, but that would not prevent Strachan from reflecting ruefully on the old principle that, if opponents of the Catalans’ class are to score, make them earn it.

But the visitors, showing implacable aggressiveness, had dominated the opening eight minutes of the second half as emphatically as they had the first and their equaliser would have been, in any case, surely a matter of time.

Indeed, it would be the 68th minute before Celtic would have their first attempt on Valdes’s goal since they scored their second.

It would come from Donati, the Italian midfielder having replaced the struggling Hartley in midfield just five minutes after Mark Wilson returned from a long injury absence to take the right-back role from the teenager Paul Caddis, who had often been outnumbered by Ronaldinho and the marauding left-back, Eric Abidal.

Georgios Samaras also came on for Vennegoor of Hesselink, but it was one of the visitors’ substitutions that proved to be most productive. Samuel Eto’o, who had replaced Ronaldinho, made a run on the right before plating the ball inside to Messi.

The Argentine once again enjoyed the break of the ball, when he was challenged by Stephen McManus, and exploited his luck with a deadly finish, stroking the left-foot shot low to the right of Boruc from 12 yards.

Celtic: Boruc, Caddis (Wilson 61), Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Hartley (Donati 65), Robson, McGeady, Vennegoor of Hesselink (Samaras 55), McDonald.

The return meeting on 4 March was considerably less memorable, and settled by a second-minute goal from Xavi. Celtic’s team in the Nou Camp was: Boruc, Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Scott Brown, Hartley (McDonald 78), Donati (Sno 46), McGeady, Vennegoor of Hesselink (Samaras 55).


The clubs were pitched together once again in the group stages of the Champions League last season, Barca breaking Celtic’s hearts with a last-gasp winner in the first game at the Nou Camp on 23 October 2012, then Tony Watt securing a famous victory in the second match on 7 November.

Here are the Scotsman match reports of two thrilling European matches...

Immense Celtic hold Barca until the last cruel kick


WE CAME here to admire the wizardry of Barcelona but ended up marvelling at the bravery of the team they were supposed to pummel. To a man, Celtic were immense. Beaten, but immense.

Such was their level of commitment and concentration in the face of the marauders in their midst it’s a wonder they didn’t all collapse in a heap at the end. They would have been exhausted. Their bodies and their brains would have been hurting. And their hearts? God only knows what state they were in emotionally given the last act here, delivered like a kick to the Celtic groin in the fourth minute of injury time.

Just when you thought they’d performed a feat of escapology that would have had Houdini himself tipping the cap in admiration, Barca nailed them. Out on the right, Adriano did his thing, whipping in a cross that sailed just over the head of Victor Wanyama and carried to the back post to Jordi Alba, the full-back, and hero, eluding James Forrest to tap in the winner that was riotously acclaimed by a home crowd that had been largely hushed and hugely frustrated up to that point.

Barca tried everything to break Celtic and looked like they weren’t going to do it. They had Messi and Iniesta and Xavi, they had Pedro and, off the bench, they had David Villa, too. None of them, seemingly, could find a winner. None of them could plot a way through the Celtic bodies who were laid on the line as if this was their last day on earth.

When Villa hit a post in the dying minutes it looked the break of a lifetime but it was merely the prelude to the winner. Barca deserved it, no question. But this was also horribly cruel on Celtic. What we saw here until Alba sealed it was extraordinary, Celtic shaking the ground under the feet of their celebrated opponents. This was the natural order turned on its head, the impossible made possible, a suspected nightmare becoming the most vivid of dreams for a travelling support camped in the Gods and scarcely able to believe what was happening below them.

We knew Celtic would be tenacious and we also knew that their concentration levels would be high, their fear of a beating ensuring that they would be as disciplined, as organised and as hungry as they possibly could be. In all of these departments they outdid themselves. They hustled and harried, they got various parts of their bodies in the way of shots and passes and, yes, rode their luck, but they deserved to.

How many times did the colossal Fraser Forster deny Barca? How many times did Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson break up Barca’s momentum with telling interventions? How many times did Charlie Mulgrew get himself in the way of things? How many times did Wanyama and Joe Ledley do likewise? We’re talking big numbers here. Huge. As beautiful as Barca’s play was at times there was a different kind of delight to be taken from the resistance they faced in return, not to mention shock and awe when Celtic came off the ropes to score the opener.

The narrative before that first goal was just as we thought it would be. Barca had taken less than two minutes to carve out a terrific chance, Iniesta playing in Alexis Sanchez, who was preferred in attack ahead of Villa. Sanchez had a golden chance but he clipped his shot wide of 
Forster’s right-hand post.

Barca looked another gift horse in the mouth soon after, the blur of movement that was Messi and Iniesta manufacturing a moment that saw Marc Bartra, the 21-year-old centre-half making his first appearance of the season, presented with a header from point-blank range, a header he directed straight at Forster, who beat it away.

In the minute that followed, this game erupted. Celtic’s goal dropped out of the sky. You almost had to blink hard and look again to make sure that it had actually happened, that the underdogs available at odds of 33-1 and upwards had really taken the lead. The origins of it came with a Sanchez foul on Scott Brown and a Mulgrew free-kick that was whipped in from the right. In all the hours of research Neil Lennon would have done on Barca the genius of their play wouldn’t have been the only thing he focused on. He would have seen their weakness in defence, too, where Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique have been absent these past weeks.

With makeshift centre-halves, Barca have conceded ten goals in their past six games and here again their uncertainty cost them. Samaras climbed to meet Mulgrew’s delivery and didn’t have much in the way of a challenge from a defender, his flicked header connecting with Javier Mascherano’s back before nestling in Victor Valdes’s net. It was a gobsmacking moment.

The tremors were felt all over the Nou Camp and soon the rhythm of the night was established. Barca would dominate possession, they would be clever and intricate, they would hold on to the ball like it was tied on a piece of string around their boots – and they would be frustrated. Messi had a couple of free-kicks that flew just too high and too wide. Bartra appeared in the Celtic box for a second time and, again, he made a mess of his moment, glancing a header wide when Forster was vulnerable.

For Celtic, the key tackles came in waves. Tackles and blocks and nicks and flicks; anything and everything that shook Barca off their stride and messed with their momentum. Eventually, the equaliser came and there was nothing Celtic could do about it. It was Messi and then it was Iniesta, then Xavi and then Iniesta. Pass, pass, pass. Goal. Quite brilliant.

It came at the end of the first half and you feared for Celtic at that point. It wasn’t just their legs that would have been tired but their minds also. All that work, all that focus. They couldn’t sustain it, could they? They could. Oh how they could.

They had to do it without 
Samaras and Brown as well, the former going off injured just before the break, the latter just after. They left, but the spirit remained and it was embodied by Forster who made a string of superb saves, one from Sanchez and two from Messi who had got himself into such fantastic positions you would have bet your life on him scoring on both occasions. Forster was magnificent, but magnificence wasn’t enough. Celtic retreated a beaten side, but a proud side for all that.

Celtic: Forster, Lustig, Wilson, Ambrose, Izaguirre, Samaras (Forrest 43), Brown (Commons 63), Wanyama, Ledley, Mulgrew (Kayal 76), Hooper.

‘Historic win for Celtic’

ON AN evening when they celebrated 125 years of history, Celtic secured a breathtaking victory which stands comparison with any of the myriad famous results recorded in their storied existence.

The last 16 of the Champions League is now tantalisingly in reach of Neil Lennon and his players after a remarkable display of defensive discipline, indomitable spirit and glorious opportunism saw them overcome a Barcelona team widely regarded as one of the finest football has ever seen.

This was a night of utter triumph for Lennon as he established himself as a Celtic manager of considerable stature. Any of his illustrious predecessors in the role would have been proud of a precious win earned by goals from Victor Wanyama and prodigious substitute Tony Watt.

Lionel Messi’s stoppage-time goal for Barcelona ensured a nerve-wracking end to an endlessly absorbing contest for the home fans, but there was to be no late salvage job for the Catalan superstars.

Celtic savoured their greatest ever Champions League win, one which leaves them in second place in Group G.

They will travel to Lisbon in a fortnight fuelled by belief they can achieve a result against Benfica which could secure their passage to the knockout stages.

The Champions League has provided the stiffest possible examination of Lennon’s burgeoning coaching acumen and circumstances forced him to try and find a fresh solution to the unique problems presented by Barcelona.

He was not found wanting as he pieced together a team selection and strategy which succeeded in giving the Scottish champions a platform from which to try and plunder a positive result from their exalted visitors.

The loss of captain Scott Brown to a viral complaint on the morning of the game was a significant blow for Lennon, already without a trio of key personnel in the shape of Emilio Izaguirre, James Forrest and Gary Hooper.

But Georgios Samaras did pass a fitness test, returning in a floating role behind Nicolas “Miku” Fedor who was preferred to teenager Watt for the central striking role. With Charlie Mulgrew deployed in Samaras’ favoured wide left position, Celtic set out a fluid 4-4-1-1 formation which regularly came to resemble a 6-3-1 when they were forced on to the back foot by Barcelona’s relentless and almost hypnotic brand of ball retention.

The Uefa statistics relayed on to the giant Parkhead screens told of some 85 per cent possession for the Spanish League leaders, but it yielded nothing for them in the first half but the 1-0 interval deficit which had a fevered home support daring to dream of a momentoustriumph.

Wanyama’s 21st-minute goal was a masterclass in opportunism from Celtic as they took full advantage of their first significant raid into Barcelona territory. The visitors’ vulnerability at set-pieces was exposed when Efe Ambrose’s long throw-in was only cleared back out to the Nigerian, who forced a corner on the right. Mulgrew whipped it over with pace and precision, finding the towering figure of Wanyama at the far post, rising above Jordi Alba to send a close- range header beyond Victor Valdes into the roof of the net.

It was a case of deja vu for Celtic, having also gone ahead in the Nou Camp two weeks earlier, and the challenge now was to try and write a different script than the one which unfolded that night.

Barcelona had passed up a couple of decent chances to take the lead themselves before Wanyama scored, Alexis Sanchez forcing Fraser Forster into his first save of the night after just six minutes with a close-range shot before Lionel Messi scooped an effort over the top as he got on the end of one especially mesmerising passage of play.

There was no hint of panic from Barcelona after they went behind, as they continued to trust in their ability to carve open Celtic’s diligent defence, but there were a few signs of frustration that the end product continued to elude them.

Remarkably, Celtic might even have doubled their lead in the 27th minute when Adam Matthews burst forward from left-back on a counter-attack and struck his low cross just too far in front of the unmarked Samaras in the penalty area.

The procession towards Forster’s goal quickly resumed, but Messi’s radar remained slightly askew when he latched on to Andres Iniesta’s rapier pass and clipped the top of the crossbar with his shot.

Celtic were pinned back, but utterly resolute. They also needed fortune to favour them, of course, and it did so again when Sanchez beat Forster with a header from Dani Alves’ cross only to see the ball strike the big goalkeeper’s left-hand post.

Unlike at the Nou Camp, the concentration levels of Lennon’s players remained sufficiently keen to avoid the loss of a late first-half equaliser on this occasion and the interval whistle was greeted with a mixture of glee and gratitude from their fans.

The pattern remained much the same in the second-half, although Barcelona’s hogging of possession was not quite so pronounced as Celtic managed to fashion some encouraging counter-attacking situations which hinted at the possibility of strengthening their position.

Messi was generally being subdued effectively, most notably by the outstanding Matthews, but the Argentinian maestro did cause a sharp intake of breath around the stands when he cut inside from the right and curled in a shot which Forster got across smartly to his right to hold.

The volume increased once more when Celtic forced their second corner of the night, this time opting for a training ground routine as Kris Commons played it short to Mulgrew from the left. Mulgrew’s lofted ball into the box found Mikael Lustig, but his looping header was easily gathered by Valdes.

As Barcelona tried to heighten the tempo, Forster became a more significantly influential figure for Celtic. The big Englishman made a smart double save to deny Alexis, then bettered that contribution with a tremendous reaction stop to keep out a fierce Messi drive.

The visitors were fortunate not to be reduced to ten men when Alex Song, booked in the first-half for a foul on Fedor, somehow escaped a second yellow card for a thumping challenge from behind on the same player. Barcelona coach Vilanova recognised the let-off, almost immediately replacing Song with Cesc Fabregas.

Lennon was forced into his first change when Lustig limped off to be replaced by Watt, and the 18-year-old took Celtic into dreamland with his stunning goal seven minutes from time.

A long clearance from Forster was misjudged by Xavi, allowing Watt to sprint clear into the penalty area and beat Valdes with a brilliantly cool right-foot finish from around 12 yards.

Celtic and their fans could not relax, Messi finally breaking their resistance in stoppage time when he tapped in from close range after Forster blocked Pedro’s shot, but this was an evening when Lennon and his men simply would not be denied.

Celtic: Forster, Lustig (Watt 71), Ambrose, Wilson, Matthews; Commons, Wanyama, Ledley, Mulgrew; Samaras (Kayal 79); Fedor. Subs not used: Zaluska, McCourt, Herron, Fraser, McGeouch.