A late, late goal from Jordi Alba broke Celtic’s hearts as they missed out on claiming a memorable point in the Camp Nou and fell to a 2-1 defeat to Barcelona.
Playing a side unbeaten in 17 home European matches, Celtic were given little chance of emerging with any points to their name. But after claiming their first European win on their travel in 21 matches against Spartak Moscow last time out, Celtic gave Barcelona a real test.
While the home side dominated possession throughout and had 26 attempts on goal, it was Celtic who claimed a shock lead after 17 minutes. Charlie Mulgrew sent an inswinging free-kick into the penalty area from the left and Georgios Samaras’s header deflected off an unaware Javier Mascherano and into the net past Victor Valdes.
Celtic would have been desperate to take their lead into half-time but suffered a huge blow as Barcelona pulled back on level terms in the final minute before the break. It was a goal of such scintillating quality, though, that Celtic could do little but sit back and admire. In a startlingly quick and accurate exchange of passes, Lionel Messi found Iniesta on the edge of the box, who played a one-two with Xavi before some fine close control allowed him to guide the ball low past Fraser Forster from 10 yards out.
But Celtic held firm throughout the second half, until the very last. In the fourth minute of injury time, Adriano sent in an inswinging cross from the left that went between goalkeeper and defenders and Alba crept in at the back post to prod home from just a couple of yards out.
The result leaves Barcelona top of Group G with nine points from three matches, while Celtic maintain their second place after Spartak Moscow’s earlier victory over Benfica. The Scottish champions will still have all to play for when they welcome Barcelona back to Celtic Park in two weeks’ time.