Barcelona make the most of Brown’s departure
Fabregas heads only goal of the game after Celtic captain is shown the red card
Celtic’s Scott Brown (second right) is shown a red card by referee Stephane Lannoy during their Champions League soccer match against Barcelona at Celtic Park in Glasgow. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Celtic 0 Barcelona 1: It is a stern enough test to face Barcelona with 11 men, let alone 10. Celtic discovered that to their cost. Anger was the overwhelming emotion in Glasgow’s east end after a sending off for the captain, Scott Brown, proved the defining moment of an otherwise taut encounter.
Brown’s departure just before the hour mark was sufficient to give Barcelona the impetus they needed to secure victory by a single goal. It was a success they barely merited from a match that regressed into the realms of the bad-tempered for the final 30 minutes.
It is widely recognised that this Barcelona team can do things as routine that others cannot. Sergio Busquets looked to emphasise that point by producing two drag-backs within 20 seconds of kick-off. It took one minute and 45 seconds for a Celtic player to touch the ball; and that a blocked tackle.
Last November’s win over Barca here created shockwaves all over Europe while earning Neil Lennon and his players the kind of glowing recognition that could never arrive on account of dominance in Scotland. In itself, that was a nod towards the brilliance of the modern-day Barcelona.
The ominous flipside to the events of last season for the home side was Barcelona could therefore be forewarned and forearmed for their latest visit.
Gerardo Martino’s team have won their opening seven La Liga matches in creating a club record; Lionel Messi was missing for this Group H tie but a front three of Pedro, Cesc Fabregas and Neymar looked a seriously potent antidote to that.
The opening half was noticeably low on clear-cut chances, in itself a credit to Celtic. That much apparently frustrated Neymar, with the Brazilian fortunate to escape without a booking for throwing himself to the ground, 20 yards from the Celtic goal, after 25 minutes.
Neymar was the first to be offered a glimpse of the Celtic goal. The Brazilian slid narrowly wide, five minutes short of the break, when meeting a Dani Alves cross.
That served as a reminder to Celtic, who had impressively kept the Catalans at arm’s length, as to the value of concentration. Xaxi proved likewise, with a free-kick that prompted Fraser Forster into an unorthodox save only seconds before the half-time whistle blew.
A hitherto tame contest was to explode into life after 58 minutes. Brown fouled the marauding Neymar, in itself not an incident worthy of a red card.
Where the Celtic midfielder erred was offering a subsequent sly kick towards an opponent who would not be slow in making the most of it.