Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Celtic ensured they topped Group C but killed off the Scottish champions’ hopes of extending their European campaign past Christmas.
Here, Andy Newport and Craig Fowler take a look at five things we learned from the Champions League clash at Parkhead.
MESSI LEAVES HOOPS SICK AGAIN
Barcelona’s main man missed Saturday’s goalless draw with Malaga after he was laid low by a stomach bug. But he had recovered his full powers in time for kick-off in Glasgow. Having netted a hat-trick in the that devastating September triumph, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner’s name was the last thing Celtic were hoping to see on the team-sheets and their worst fears came true as Lionel Messi grabbed the crucial double which killed off their Europa League ambitions.
The legendary attacker indicated early that he was fit and raring to go. Dropping deep to near enough the halfway line, Messi picked out Neymar running in behind on the left with an inch-perfect pass. Then, when his team-mate advanced into the penalty area, he suddenly appeared in the picture to latch on to a back-heel. Jozo Simunovic managed to block the Argentine’s effort, but you know then it’d only be a matter of time before he made his mark on the game.
NEYMAR LAYS DOWN THE LAW
The Brazilian star has found himself in a spot of bother with the Spanish authorities this week, with prosecutors seeking a two-year prison sentence and a 10.6 million US dollars (£8.5million) fine for the Barca forward on corruption charges, due to alleged irregularities during his 2013 switch from former club Santos. But he did not let that matter affect his display, laying on Messi’s opener with a sublime pass.
Celtic fans would have been hoping the news from Spain distracted the attacker. Instead, it seemed to rile him up, as he got into a spat with Mikael Lustig which saw him heavily booed when he left the field after being substituted towards the end of the game.
CELTIC MANAGED TO PUT UP A BETTER FIGHT
The Hoops suffered a humiliating 7-0 thrashing when the sides last met at the Nou Camp back in September. This time the gulf was nowhere near as big as they put on a more disciplined display. Instead of standing off their opponents, they got into the faces of the Barcelona defenders and forced a few stray passes. They would greatly lament a later chance, but they’ll also be disappointed not to create more in the opening 15 minutes when the effectiveness of their pressing unsettled Barca. The defeat ends Celtic’s European campaign but they can now focus on Sunday’s Betfred Cup final showdown with Aberdeen and their relentless march to the Ladbrokes Championship title.
MOUSSA DEMBELE STILL NOT THE FINISHED ARTICLE
The Celtic frontman has made a sensational start to his Parkhead career, netting 16 goals in his first 25 games. That impressive tally has already seen him linked to Chelsea, both Manchester clubs and even Real Madrid, with a £40million price tag reportedly placed on his head. But against Barca, he showed he still has some rough edges to smooth out. Up against two of the world’s best defenders in Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano, he struggled to hold up play in the manner he did against Manchester City and the away tie in Borussia Monchengladbach. Although he improved as the game went on, he should have fired Celtic back into the contest early in the second half. His fluffed header, however, proved costly.
BRENDAN RODGERS WILL BE KEEN TO SEE KIERAN TIERNEY RETURN
With his young left-back ruled out until the new year with an ankle injury, Celtic were forced to put their faith in Emilio Izaguirre as Messi and co. came to Glasgow. The Honduras international was fired up for the occasion as he tore into tackles in the first half and looked to be putting in an excellent showing against the might of the Catalan giants. He would eventually let his aggression get the better of him, committing a needless rugby tackle on Luis Suarez which teed up Messi to score his second from the spot and kill off Celtic’s hopes of a comeback. The quicker Tierney regains fitness the better for the Hoops.