Champions League review: FC Barcelona 2 – 1 Celtic: Leaving it ’til the Last Minute: A MasterclassBy: Natasha | October 24th, 2012
There was a time when Barça would produce 5-0 scorelines on the regular and there was no such thing as a 4-5 result or a winning goal within the last 30 seconds of injury time. Looks like those days are gone! Better invest in some paper bags to breathe into…
Barça’s lineup was as follows: Valdes – Adriano, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba – Xavi, Song, Iniesta, – Pedro, Messi, Alexis. After playing a great match at the weekend, Cesc was benched. Apparently that’s how it works at Barça! Bartra finally got a start and is no longer JDS version 2.0, which is a relief, because he did rather well. I almost expected Messi to start on the bench because if he were to be rested, this would be the match to do it, most likely…and because there was much talk in the Scottish newspapers of “neutralizing Messi”, which was actually quite effective in the end.
So this match was supposed to be an easy win for Barça – playing at home (at the “New Camp”, as my commentators liked to call it) and against a team who didn’t have a chance in the CL anyway, according to some. Maybe that was the problem? Most of us will have noticed that Barça became complacent quite a few times last season. But I don’t think that was it, I think it was simply a case of Barça facing a strong team, one with an especially tough defence. We know what happens when Barça face a team with a tough defence…remember Chelsea? Yup.
And before we knew it, Celtic scored. Or rather, Mascherano had quite a part to play here. Maybe he’s going for the own goal Pichichi trophy? Looks like he’s suffering from a dip in form, probably because he’s the only “experienced centre back” we have at the moment. The pressure! And this brings me to Bartra. Barça had 82% possession during this match and the defence were mainly untested, but he played very well. Hopefully we’ll see Tito start him more often, maybe alongside Puyol or Piqué, because he needs time to develop. We’ll see how he copes against a team that are constantly attacking, but so far, so good.
In true Barça style (for this match), their first goal came at the very end of the first half. But it was worth waiting for. After a psychic link-up between Messi, Xavi and Iniesta…bam. 1-1. It was a wonderful team goal and you should watch it again. Here’s the link – do it now. Iniesta was also not at his best during this match, but his goal made up for it. And for the next 48-½ minutes of the second half, it looked like that was all we were getting out of this match.
The first half was a bit of a mess. We saw the majority of the play go straight down the middle again, with Messi acting like a pot of honey to the bees every time he got the ball. Alexis, apart from a shot at goal during the opening minutes, was mainly anonymous. Yet this seems to happen time and time again – where is the wing play? We see it when Dani Alves is on the pitch, usually in the form of crosses being fired into the box with no one to meet them, but we do see it. Jordi Alba plays very well on his flank, but our wingers need to step up. Going through the middle of a congested pitch doesn’t work and goodness knows we’ve seen Barça try and fail to do this on more than one occasion.
The second half had a similar pattern – a shot on target and a save by Celtic’s GK, Forster. There must be something about Barça that allows a goalkeeper to play the match of their life. Remember Javi Varas? Add Forster to that list! He was Celtic’s standout player and his saves were excellent, much to my annoyance. Apart from that, I’m not sure what else I can say about the second half and I lost track of how many shots Barça had after the first, oh, 50.
A draw would have been ideal for Celtic (apart from a win, obviously, but when the game is tied 1-1 at 90 minutes, you’d take the draw too) and I’m guessing most of us Barça fans had given up hope. Desperate times call for desperate measures…enter the Killer Squirrel (thanks, Ade)! The Killer Squirrel being Jordi Alba, of course. I’m not sure how he did it, but he did it, he scored with about 30 seconds left to spare. And if I were a Celtic fan, I’d probably have climbed to the top of the Camp Nou and thrown myself off. Something I find quite funny is that “Alba” is Gaelic for “Scotland”…Alba scored against a Scottish team…get it? Probably not. Maybe it’s only me who finds it funny…
Credit must go to Celtic for playing a clean match and defending with their lives. Whatever their strategy was, it worked, well, almost. If this match was played last season, I think Barça would have walked away with a draw. It looks like there’s a new-found motivation or composure because I haven’t seen the team become complacent like they did last season.
Valdes – 7. Well, he didn’t have much to do and there was no way he could have saved that goal. Mascherano made sure of that!
Adriano – 6. I don’t think he’s anywhere near as good on the right as he is the left and would have preferred Montoya to have started.
Mascherano – 5. Not at his best and after scoring an own goal, I can’t award much more than 5 unfortunately.
Bartra – 7. He did very well and hopefully he’ll start a few more matches this season. As I’ve said though, the main test will be when he’s up against an attacking team.
Jordi Alba – 8. MOTM by far. He saved the match and was tireless on the left. It was a shame there wasn’t better link-up play with Alexis, but Barça insisted on playing straight down the middle for the majority of the match, so that was that ruled out.
Song – 7. Not as slick as Busquets is, but he brings something else to the team. Mainly height and willingness to get into the box for a corner. That’s very rare indeed! Song’s first goal is going to be from a set piece. With his head. That is a scientific fact.
Xavi – 7. Part of wonderful play leading up to Iniesta’s goal. Then again, Xavi, creating excellent assists and chances…who’s surprised?
Iniesta – 6. Scored a great goal, yes, but another one who wasn’t at his best. I thought he looked a little tired and he could have been rested for this match instead.
Pedro – 5. Not great either. He didn’t do much on the wing and yes, I keep going on about it, but the wings were completely ignored during this match.
Messi – 6. Celtic wanted to neutralize him and they pretty much succeeded. There are rumours he was suffering from a cold so that on top of likely jetlag, you can forgive him for not scoring yet another hattrick.
Alexis – 5. Ineffective. I blame play going down the middle of a congested pitch mainly on Alexis and Pedro. He needs to try harder to get past his defender, otherwise, what’s the point? He’s strong enough to do it.
Barça face Celtic in two weeks time at Celtic Park. I think I need those two weeks to recover. How about you?
Some Related Barcelona Posts:
- FC Barcelona-Celtic, Champions league night: Just score more!
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