Champions League

Messi bags double as Barca see off Celtic

2016-11-24 07:38
Lionel Messi (Getty)

Glasgow - Lionel Messi hit a brace as he returned to the Barcelona line-up to help book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a comfortable 2-0 win at Celtic on Wednesday.

Messi, who missed Saturday's goalless draw with Malaga due to illness, provided a fine finish to Neymar's lofted pass to hand the Spanish champions a 24th-minute lead in Glasgow.

The Barcelona captain, who grabbed a hat-trick in the 7-0 mauling in the reverse fixture in the Camp Nou, then converted a 56th-minute penalty won by Luis Suarez to see his side top Group C with 12 points from five games.

Manchester City's draw with Borussia Monchengladbach in the group's other match also sees the English side through and means Celtic can't pip the Germans to third spot due to their inferior head-to-head record.

"It was quite a hard game and we expected Celtic to come out and make it difficult," said Barcelona manager Luis Enrique.

"We were good at the back and we got better as the game went on. It was a very difficult group and it's great to finish first with a game to spare."

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers felt his side had improved significantly from their hammering in the Camp Nou, although their European adventures are over for another year.

"I was proud of the team tonight. We looked like we played without any fear and we pressed the game well," Rodgers said.

"If we take some of our chances then it might have been a different game but we showed a vast improvement, which is important."

Apart from the injured Andres Iniesta, Barcelona named their strongest 11 as Suarez and Messi returned from suspension and illness respectively to form their formidable partnership with Neymar in the Barca attack.

Celtic didn't allow the visitors time on the ball as they pressed high up the pitch early on. 

However, Barcelona began to probe at the Celtic defence with Mikel Lustig looking particularly vulnerable to the runs of Jordi Alba and Neymar.

The Brazilian was first to burst into the Celtic box and teed up Messi with a back-heel and the Argentine's deflected shot had Craig Gordon scrambling across his line before it was cleared.

Alba was then the provider as his cross from the left found Ivan Rakitic lurking in the box but the Croatian international sent his header bouncing into the turf and over the bar.

Celtic failed to heed the warning signs and Barca soon had a deserved lead.

Neymar, who learned earlier in the day that Spanish prosecutors were seeking a two-year jail sentence and 10-million-euro fine for his part in his allegedly fraudulent transfer to Barca, was given space to play a wonderful lofted pass to Messi, who crashed a sublime shot on the half-volley in off the near post.

The hosts tried to respond and had their first shot on target in the 37th minute when Moussa Dembele stung the palms of Marc Andre ter Stegen with a fierce strike.

Only a superb save from Gordon stopped Suarez from adding a second before the break as he blocked a point-blank header from the Uruguayan international with his body.

Celtic lost Scott Sinclair to injury at the break but his replacement James Forrest created Celtic's best opportunity when he picked out Dembele with a cross but the in-form French forward sent a tame header straight to ter Stegen.

It was to prove costly as Barcelona doubled their advantage moments later. Suarez got on the wrong side of Emilio Izaguirre and the Celtic defender hauled him to the ground to earn a penalty that Messi sent straight down the middle to score his 502nd goal for the Catalan giants.

Neymar was fortunate to escape with just a booking, which will see him miss the final group game, as he pushed Lustig to the turf after the players clashed, with the Brazilian international subbed moments later.

Read more on:    barcelona  |  champions league  |  lionel messi  |  soccer

 

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Shakhtar Donetsk v Dinamo Zagreb, Metalist Stadium 18:55
Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen, Wanda Metropolitano 18:55
Juventus v Lokomotiv Moscow, Allianz Stadium 21:00
Manchester City v Atalanta, Etihad Stadium 21:00
Club Brugge v Paris SG, Jan Breydel Stadion 21:00
Olympiacos v Bayern Munchen, Karaiskakis Stadium 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Red Star Belgrade, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 21:00
Galatasaray v Real Madrid, Turk Telekom Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Ajax v Chelsea, Amsterdam ArenA 18:55
RB Leipzig v Zenit St. Petersburg, Red Bull Arena 18:55
Benfica v Lyon, da Luz 21:00
Slavia Prague v Barcelona, Eden Arena 21:00
Genk v Liverpool, Luminus Arena 21:00
Red Bull Salzburg v Napoli, Red Bull Arena 21:00
Inter Milan v Borussia Dortmund, San Siro 21:00
Lille v Valencia, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 21:00
Tuesday, 05 November 2019
Barcelona v Slavia Prague, Camp Nou 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v RB Leipzig, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Genk, Anfield 22:00
Lyon v Benfica, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Valencia v Lille, Mestalla 22:00
Napoli v Red Bull Salzburg, San Paolo 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Inter Milan, Signal Iduna Park 22:00
Chelsea v Ajax, Stamford Bridge 22:00
Wednesday, 06 November 2019
Bayern Munchen v Olympiacos, Allianz Arena 19:55
Lokomotiv Moscow v Juventus, Lokomotiv Stadium 19:55
Atalanta v Manchester City, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia 22:00
Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid, BayArena 22:00
Dinamo Zagreb v Shakhtar Donetsk, Maksimir Stadium 22:00
Paris SG v Club Brugge, Parc des Princes 22:00
Real Madrid v Galatasaray, Santiago Bernabeu 22:00
Red Star Belgrade v Tottenham Hotspur, Stadion Rajko Mitic 22:00
Tuesday, 26 November 2019
Lokomotiv Moscow v Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Stadium 19:55
Galatasaray v Club Brugge, Turk Telekom Arena 19:55
Juventus v Atletico Madrid, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Atalanta v Dinamo Zagreb, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Real Madrid v Paris SG, Santiago Bernabeu 22:00
Red Star Belgrade v Bayern Munchen, Stadion Rajko Mitic 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Olympiacos, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Valencia v Chelsea, Mestalla 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v Lyon, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Napoli, Anfield 22:00
Barcelona v Borussia Dortmund, Camp Nou 22:00
Slavia Prague v Inter Milan, Eden Arena 22:00
Genk v Red Bull Salzburg, Luminus Arena 22:00
RB Leipzig v Benfica, Red Bull Arena 22:00
Lille v Ajax, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 22:00
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