Barca win, but Beware the Bhoys
October 24, 2012 in Europe
A colleague of mine pointed out that the odds of Barcelona winning 7-0 yesterday were at 30-1, while the odds of Celtic winning at all were at 25-1. This prompted the usual mockery when we’re presented with ludicrous news followed by predictions, the most generous being 3-0 to the home side.
But I had a feeling that Celtic would do something. Barcelona’s defence is too fragile for me ever to discount them conceding, and Chelsea had demonstrated the best way to nullify them last season; a method that doesn’t need billions from a Russian oil tycoon to implement.
Onto the match itself.
The Catalans seemed to begin how they meant to go on, their impeccable style eroding their opponents, their crown jewels of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all in attendance. But The Best Club in Glasgow™ stood firm, at one point being the only British team in the competition not trailing. Then, a ricochet led to a breakaway in the 16th minute, and Gary Hooper was brought down for a foul on the right wing in a dangerous area.
Mulgrew’s delivery was probing, and it bounced off the heads of both the excellent Samaras (never thought I’d type that in this situation) and Mascherano before nestling in the bottom corner. 1-0 Celtic, Barcelona’s vulnerability to set-pieces once more exposed.
The match then developed a pattern: the shell-shocked Catalans probing for cracks in the white and green wall before them, and the rare occasions when they conceded possession led to a Glaswegian break-away.
Then things got bad for the visitors. Giorgios Samaras, masterfully deployed in the hole (I think a pig just flew past my window), had to be led off injured. And then they went from bad to worse when the home side got their act together, the wonderful understanding between their midfield duo resulting in a masterful goal for Iniesta. 1-1 and half time.
The pattern continued after half-time, Celtic’s counter attacks mostly characterised by the ability of Samaras’ replacement, James Forrest, to carry the ball forward. But even he faltered, and after around 65 minutes, the pressure began in earnest.
Unfortunately for the 2011 winners, this was when Forster went into what we at Ballsy Banter call “God Mode”.
Calmly plucking crosses out of the air, commanding his area like a player several years his senior and the two utterly world-class saves from The Best Player in the World (probably) whenever his defence failed him was a joy to behold. One hopes Roy Hodgson was watching, although he was probably building a formation around the talents of James Milner or something.
On the 80th minute, substitute David Villa hit the post, and we thought that was the closest the Catalans would come: Messi was playing like the opposition was Chelsea, and the Celtic backline were immune to Xavi and Iniesta’s best work.
But in the last minute of stoppage time, the ball was crossed deep into the box for Jordi Alba to tap in from a yard.
2-1. Full time, and the luck that seems to follow the best teams cost Celtic a deserved point.
Neil Lennon said that his team left with their reputation intact. If anything, they left with their reputation enhanced, and the knowledge that a Barcelona side with defensive frailties now need to come and do the same in the fortress that is Celtic Park.
Wonder what the odds will be for that?