Forster heroics hold Barça but Alba breaks Celtic hearts


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The Independent Online

Celtic were denied a famous draw here last night with the last kick of the game. For 93 minutes it looked as though their English-born keeper Fraser Forster would earn them a point but when Adriano crossed with Barcelona's last attack Jordi Alba scored from a yard out.

So cruel: after David Villa came on and hit a post, it had seemed the Scots would get the point they deserved.

With an extra midfielder picked ahead of Kris Commons, manager Neil Lennon had set out his stall to leave Barça with as little space as possible and it worked early on. Their first chance did not come until the eighth minute, when Lionel Messi's reverse pass sent Alba down the left. His cross went just beyond Pedro.

Messi was dispossessed first by Charlie Mulgrew and then Joe Ledley as Celtic made their presence felt in midfield, where Alex Song had started ahead of Cesc Fabregas.

On 16 minutes Forster went into action for the first time when Iniesta crossed from the left and Marc Barta's header was blocked by the English keeper, but from Celtic's next move they took the lead.

Alexis brought down Scott Brown and Mulgrew floated the free-kick to the edge of the six-yard box for Giorgios Samaras. The Greek failed to make proper contact but it mattered not as Mascherano put the ball past his own keeper to send Celtic's 5,000-odd support up in the gods, and Lennon inside his technical area, into raptures. It was Barça's fourth own-goal of the season.

On the touchline coach Tito Vilanova was as passive as his team, who were playing none of their mesmerising football. Adriano tried his luck from distance but Forster, looking assured, got down to his near post to make the comfortable save. On 34 minutes there were even "Olé " cries from the Celtic fans as their team briefly kept possession in midfield.

Messi sent a free-kick just over Forster's bar after Kelvin Wilson had brought him down, but Celtic were by no means under siege. But Barcelona's holy trinity struck just before the board showing two minutes of first-half added time was shown. Messi, Xavi and Iniesta swapped passes inside the penalty area with the latter scoring past Forster to level the scores.

With James Forrest on for the injured Samaras, his direct running drew a foul from Alexis as Celtic started the second half brightly. There was still no sign of Barça domination as again Adriano had to shoot from distance and again it caused Forster no problems. He saved again from Messi and Iniesta and then produced his save of the night – at point-blank range from Messi after he had been played in on the edge of the six-yard box by Pedro.

A perfect Kelvin Wilson tackle on the edge of the area further frustrated the Argentine with the Nou Camp howling in vain for a penalty.