Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Fraser Forster's heroics hold Barcelona but Jordi Alba breaks Celtic hearts

Neil Lennon’s 'magnificent' men cruelly denied at the death

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Adriano Correia of FC Barcelona celebrates after FC Jordi Alba of FC Barcelona scored his team's winning goal, during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Manager of Celtic FC Neil Lennon reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Victor Valdes of FC Barcelona reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Celtic's Giorgos Samaras, left, is congratulate by teammates Mikael Lustig, right, and Efe Ambrose after scoring during a Champions League Group G soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Felice Calabro')
Celtic's Giorgos Samaras, third right, scores against FC Barcelona during a Champions League soccer match group G at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Adriano Correia of FC Barcelona celebrates after FC Jordi Alba of FC Barcelona scored his team's winning goal, during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Celtic FC players look dejected after Jordi Alba of FC Barcelona after scored his team's winning goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Jordi Alba (C) of Barcelona celebrates scoring in between Goalkeeper Fraser Forster (L) and James Forrest of Celtic FC after scoring his sides winning goal in overtime during the UEFA Champions League group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: FC Barcelona captain wears the UEFA 'Unite Against Racism' armband during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: FC Barcelona captain wears the UEFA 'Unite Against Racism' armband during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Javier Mascherano of FC Barcelona (L) is tackled by Gary Hooper of Celtic FC during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Gary Hooper of Celtic FC reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Javier Mascherano of FC Barcelona (L) is tackled by Gary Hooper of Celtic FC during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Scott Brown of Celtic FC (L) duels for the ball with Alex Song of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona (2ndR) celebrates with his teammates after scoring his team's first goal goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona (2ndR) celebrates with his teammates after scoring his team's first goal goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona (R) celebrates with his teammate Adriano Correia after scoring his team's first goal goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Giorgos Samaras (C) of Celtic FC is being helped off the pitch after injuring himself during the UEFA Champions League group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts after missing a chance to score during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Fraser Forster of Celtic FC celebrates after Giorgio Samaras of Celtic FC scored the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Andres Iniesta (R) of Barcelona duels for the ball with Kelvin Wilson of Celtic FC during the UEFA Champions League group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Manager of Celtic FC Neil Lennon reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Georgios Samaras of Celtic line4s up behind a mascot wearing a Unite Against Racism t-shirt prior to the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: (L-R ) Alex Song, Adriano, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba of FC Barcelona players line up next to mascots wearing Unite Against Racism t-shirts prior to the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Lionel Messi of Barcelona reacts during the UEFA Champions League group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: David Villa of Barcelona reacts during the UEFA Champions League group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Lionel Messi (R) of Barcelona runs for the ball with Kelvin Wilson of Celtic FC during the UEFA Champions League group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Lionel Messi (R) of Barcelona runs for the ball with Kelvin Wilson of Celtic FC during the UEFA Champions League group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Gary Hooper (L) and Joe Ledley (2nd R) of Celtic FC acknowledge their supporters at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
FC Barcelona's Jordi Alva, second right, duels for the ball against Celtic's Kelvin Wilson, right, and Efe Ambrose , center, during a Champions League soccer match group G at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Celtic players Kris Commons, right, and Gary Hooper react after FC Barcelona scored during a Champions League soccer match group G at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
FC Barcelona's players hug teammate Jordi Alba after scoring during a Champions League Group G soccer match between FC Barcelona and Celtic at the Camp Nou, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. FC Barcelona won 2-1. (AP Photo/Felice Calabro')
Celtic's Efe Ambrose, left, challenges FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, of Argentina, during a Champions League Group G soccer match at the Camp Nou, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Felice Calabro')
Celtic's supporters react after Celtic's forward Giorgos Samaras scored during a Champions League Group G soccer match between FC Barcelona and Celtic at the Camp Nou, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Felice Calabro')
FC Barcelona Lionel Messi from Argentina reacts during a Champions League soccer match group G against Celtic at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Barcelona 2 Celtic 1: So much for the death of Scottish football and the dearth of English goalkeepers. Celtic matched Barcelona for 93 minutes here last night and their Hexham born goalkeeper was their star player – just a shame that some games go into a 94th minute.



With Fraser Forster batting away everything that Lionel Messi and company could throw at him and central defenders Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson outstanding in front of their goalkeeper, it looked as though Celtic would take a deserved point back to Scotland. However, with their last attack and from closer to Forster's goal than they had managed to get all night left-back Jordi Alba forced in the winner for Barça.



Celtic were given no chance when they were drawn with Barcelona, Spartak Moscow and Benfica in their group but they were seconds from sitting pretty in second place, two points clear of third, until the heartbreaking finish that now leaves them just one point above Spartak Moscow whom they play at home in the last game.



"I don't take too much notice of the comments," said Lennon of those that dismissed his side as Group G whipping boys. "Most of them are born out of ignorance. We are used to playing to win in every single game we play. The team was magnificent tonight; I'm so proud of the players. They have given the club and the country a huge shot in the arm. They were playing against the best players in the world but never panicked. We were compact and caused them problems on the break. We leave with our reputation very much intact."



It was, for all but that last fateful Barcelona attack, the perfect "underdogs away in Europe" performance. In midfield Charlie Mulgrew and Scott Brown snapped into challenges while Victor Wanyama's long stride was always on hand to turn defence quickly into attack. The visitors defended intelligently but attacked with purpose too and stunned their hosts by taking the lead in the 18th minute.



Alexis Sanchez brought down Brown and Mulgrew floated the free-kick to the edge of the six-yard box where Georgios Samaras was poised. The Greek forward failed to make meaningful contact but it mattered not as Javier Mascherano sent it past his own keeper to send Celtic's travelling support up in the gods of the Nou Camp, and Lennon inside his technical area, into raptures.



Barcelona's Achilles heel of defending set-pieces had been exposed again, and they had also scored their fourth own goal of the season.



Those 5,000 or so supporters were soon doing "the Poznan". Lennon, with his fingers to his temples, was sending out the clear message to his players – we have the lead; now let's use our heads and keep it.



Ten minutes before half time there were even cries of "Olé" from the Celtic fans as their team briefly kept possession in midfield with audacious ease, but on the stroke of half time the Holy Trinity struck to level. Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta swapped passes inside a penalty area packed with green-and-white shirts and the latter beat Forster to level the score.



Samaras had seconds earlier hobbled off to be replaced by James Forrest. So with their favoured out-ball no longer an option it seemed Celtic might have their backs even closer to the wall in the second half. But the substitute's direct running created a threat on the counter-attack and Forster continued his heroics at the other end.



He saved at point-blank range from Messi after he had been played in on the edge of the six-yard box by Pedro and then superbly turned the Argentine's header away for a corner after Iniesta had flipped the ball over the Celtic defence.



When substitute David Villa came on for Barcelona and hit a post at the death it seemed Celtic would take a point but then Alba scored the winner from an Adriano cross.



"Everyone says it must be fantastic to go to the Nou Camp but when you are at ground level it is not so much fun," said Lennon. "It's a bittersweet feeling.



"We will have a big crowd supporting us when they come to us in two weeks' time and our home form is as good as anyone's."



Booked: Barcelona - Mascherano, Adriano. Celtic - Forrest.



Man of the match: Fraser Forster



Possession: Barcelona 72%. Celtic 28%.



Attempts on target: Barcelona 16. Celtic 2.



Referee: G Rocchi (It).



Attendance: 75,000.

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