It was game on and then game over within two minutes as Barcelona cruised into the Champions League quarter-finals last night. Only the loss of the striker Leo Messi soured the home side's evening – the Argentine left the pitch in tears towards the end of the first half, with a recurrence of a thigh injury that kept him out for a month earlier in the season.
As expected, Frank Rijkaard recalled Messi and left out Thierry Henry, and it was Messi who started the move for the first goal. Gordon Strachan had named just Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink in attack and picked Paul Hartley as an extra midfielder, at the expense of Scott McDonald. The attempt to flood the midfield failed, though, as Messi released Xavi Hernandez, who played Ronaldinho down the left. The Brazilian passed to Sylvinho on the overlap and Xavi turned in the cross first time, over Artur Boruc in the Celtic goal.
Strachan said: "You have a plan, but part of the deal is that you actually tackle and we did not get that part right for the first goal. In the second half we were braver on the ball and we were a lot better."
Barcelona went into exhibition mode. Ronaldinho had a shot parried for a corner and Boruc tipped Carles Puyol's effort over. Then Barcelona lost Messi. The Spanish side's famous tendency to relax showed itself in the second half, and a ridiculous back-heel from Deco to Sylvinho in his own area gifted Celtic a corner. The moment of weakness woke Barcelona up.
Ronaldinho quickly forced Boruc into action again with a stinging shot from a Samuel Eto'o lay-off and Deco nearly made amends for his earlier error with a shot from outside the box.
With 10 minutes left Strachan threw caution to the winds, sending on McDonald up front, to partner Georgios Samaras, an earlier replacement for Vennegoor of Hesselink. McDonald tested Victor Valdes from distance. Boruc prevented Eidur Gudjohnsen making it 2-0 before Shunsuke Nakamura brought a superb save from Valdes in injury time.
Rijkaard lamented the loss of Messi. He said: "It overshadows the win completely and all the dressing room is sad for him. He will go for tests and, hopefully, it will not be as bad as we fear. It's not good news but we have to get over it."
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Zambrotta, Puyol, Thuram, Sylvinho; Xavi (Gudjohnsen, 82), Touré (Edmilson, 68), Deco; Messi (Henry, 38), Eto'o, Ronaldinho. Substitutes not used: Pinto (gk), Iniesta, Abidal, Bojan.
Celtic (4-5-1): Boruc; Wilson, Caldwell, McMauns, Naylor; Nakamura, Hartley (McDonald, 78), Brown, Donati (Sno, 46), McGeady; Vennegoor of Hesselink (Samaras, 55).Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Pressley, Robson, O'Dea.
Referee: P Vink (Netherlands).
* Turkish side Fenerbahce beat Seville 3-2 on penalties to make the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time after drawing 5-5 on aggregate.Reuse content