Barca’s top stars go off against Celtic

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

LIONEL Messi bagged a hat­trick and Ney­mar grabbed four as­sists as Barcelona launched their Champions League cam­paign in style with a 7-0 thrash­ing of Celtic on Septem­ber 13.

Messi and Ney­mar were re­united with Luis Suarez from the start for the first time this sea­son and took no time in get­ting reac­quainted as all three were on the score­sheet.

Two goals from Messi ei­ther side of Moussa Dem­bele’s missed penalty for Celtic gave Barca a com­fort­able half­time lead.

And there was no let-up for the Scot­tish champions af­ter the break as Ney­mar, Messi, An­dres Ini­esta and a Suarez dou­ble com­pleted the rout.

“It has been many games since we have been able to en­joy be­ing on the pitch to­gether and to­day we did,” Suarez told TV3.

Suarez was lauded as the best striker in the world by Celtic man­ager Bren­dan Rodgers, who was in charge of the Uruguayan for two years at Liver­pool, on the eve of the game.

And Rodgers ad­mit­ted the gulf in class took a toll, but claimed there was no rea­son for Celtic to be em­bar­rassed.

“There can be no em­barass­ment be­cause they do that to bet­ter teams than our­selves,” said Rodgers.

“They are spe­cial play­ers. It is a front three that can oc­cupy as many play­ers as you want.

“We had a back five, but their move­ment speed and touch com­bined, they are world-class play­ers and they showed that tonight.”

How­ever, Barca could face fur­ther sanc­tions from UEFA af­ter thou­sands of sep­a­ratist Cata­lan flags were again flown at the Camp Nou.

The Span­ish champions were fined 150,000 eu­ros (US$170,000) by UEFA for the pres­ence of the flags dur­ing last sea­son’s com­pe­ti­tion, 50,000 eu­ros of which was sus­pended for two years.

Messi had started last week­end’s shock 2-1 de­feat to Alaves on the bench due to the af­ter-ef­fects of a mi­nor groin in­jury, but took just three min­utes to make his pres­ence felt with a ris­ing drive into the top corner from Ney­mar’s lovely through ball.

How­ever, Celtic had a great chance to level against the run of play when Dem­bele surged onto Scott Sin­clair’s pass and was up­ended by Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen.

Dem­bele was Celtic’s hat-trick hero in a 5-1 thrash­ing of Glas­gow ri­vals Rangers on Septem­ber 10, but he failed to add to his bur­geon­ing rep­u­ta­tion as ter Ste­gen flew to his right to turn the French­man’s penalty be­hind.

The Ger­man keeper has now saved three of the four penal­ties he has faced in the Champions League.

Barca im­me­di­ately upped a gear and dou­bled their ad­van­tage three min­utes later when a sen­sa­tional ex­change of passes be­tween Ney­mar and Messi freed the lat­ter to tap home his sec­ond of the night de­spite the pres­ence of seven Celtic de­fend­ers in the area.

The one-way traf­fic con­tin­ued af­ter the break as Dorus de Vries could only parry Ney­mar’s free-kick into the top corner for his first goal of the sea­son.

Ini­esta had been in­tro­duced at half-time and for all Messi’s magic, the mid­field schemer struck the goal of the night with a fe­ro­cious vol­ley from Ney­mar’s cross.

Suarez showed his un­selfish­ness rather than his killer in­stinct a minute later by squar­ing for Messi to roll home and com­plete his sixth Champions League hat-trick.

Suarez did even­tu­ally get his goal, though, as he con­trolled another Ney­mar chipped pass be­fore swiv­el­ling and smash­ing the ball into the roof of the net past a help­less de Vries.

And Messi’s low cross was prod­ded home from close range by Suarez to cap a hum­bling evening for Rodgers’s men on their re­turn to the Champions League af­ter a three-year ab­sence.

Photo: AFP

Lionel Messi cel­e­brates one of his three goals as Barca fans wave Cata­lan sep­a­ratist flags in the back­ground dur­ing the Champions League foot­ball match be­tween Barcelona and Celtic in Barcelona, Spain, on Septem­ber 13.

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