Neymar showed once more that there’s plenty of life for Barcelona without the injured Lionel Messi as the big-money summer signing scored his first hat-trick for the Catalans in a 5-0 destruction of Celtic at the Camp Nou.
The Brazilian’s talents had led to a sending off for Celtic midfielder Scott Brown in the first match between the teams this season and he was a thorn in the Scottish champions’ side once more with three goals in a 15-minute spell either side of half-time.
There was little to play for in the final match of the group phase for either side, with Celtic already guaranteed to finish bottom, while Barcelona needed just a point to ensure they took top spot. But Gerardo Martino’s side responded from a recent poor run of form to put a Celtic side, who famously beat them in last season’s competition, to the sword.
The opening goal arrived just seven minutes in. Alexis Sanchez was played in down the right and, after cutting inside his defender, he saw his shot saved but Gerard Pique was on hand to control the rebound before poking the ball into the net.
Six minutes before the interval it was 2-0. Neymar did all the hard work by beating Celtic defender Efe Ambrose going toward the byline down the right of the box, before taking a quick look up and picking out Pedro perfectly at the near post for the Spanish forward to finish crisply.
And just five minutes later, Neymar, who had already threatened on a number of occasions, had a much warranted first Champions League goal. After some neat triangles in midfield, Sanchez chipped the ball over the Celtic defense to meet the ever marauding Dani Alves, who showed his customary coolness in the box and laid the ball square for Neymar to apply the simple finish.
Neymar’s second goal was not long in coming. A delightful exchange between he and Xavi got the Brazilian in with a shooting opportunity and he took his chance clinically by placing an effort into the corner from the edge of the box.
His third goal was the pick of the bunch. Receiving the ball in his familiar inside left position, Neymar befuddled Ambrose once more with his quick footwork sticking the ball through his legs before placing it past the goalkeeper before it struck the covering on its way into the net.
Barcelona’s final dose of punishment arrived with 18 minutes remaining. Adriano’s pull back from the left was met by a shot from the substitute Christian Tello which took a pivotal deflection off of Virgil van Dijk to beat Fraser Forster, who was unable to come close to repeating his previous heroics against Barcelona.
The only moment to cheer for Celtic fans came in the dying minutes when Georgios Samaras headed in a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick.