Celtic captain Scott Brown was sent off as Barcelona won 1-0 at Celtic Park thanks to a late Cesc Fabregas winner.
The Scottish champions had held the Spanish champions for an hour until Brown was shown a straight red card after fouling Neymar and the extra man allowed Barcelona to steal all 3 points in the 75th minute as Fabregas finished a counter attack.
Barcelona, who were missing World Player of the Year Lionel Messi through injury, dominated possession throughout but failed to seriously trouble Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Foster in the first half. Celtic survived their opponents early dominance and started to create their own opportunities, despite having only 18% of the possession. Victor Valdes was forced to save from Georgios Samaras during the first half.
The match swung on the hour mark with the dismissal of the Celtic skipper. Brown brought down Neymar as he drove at the Celtic defence and appeared to kick out at the Brazilian’s arm as he tumbled to the ground. The referee deemed that the two offences merited a straight red which left Celtic with an uphill struggle for the rest of the game, Barcelona are hard enough to beat with 11 men, let alone 10.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Celtic began to threaten the Barcelona goal and were close to taking the lead with 10 men. First, James Forrest’s strike needed an fine save from Valdes and from the resulting corner Charlie Mulgrew narrowly headed wide.
After riding Celtic’s pressure, Barcelona pushed forward and threw on Alexis Sanchez to help search for the winner, and with 75 minutes on the clock, the Catalan side struck. Neymar once again dribbled forward at the Celtic defence before playing in Sanchez on the right who picked out Fabregas at the back post. The Spaniard’s header was expertly directed back across goal to the far corner and suddenly Celtic were behind after all of their good work.
Celtic Park has become a fortress for Celtic in the Champions League of late, with the Scottish side notably beating Barcelona 2-1 in the group stage last year, but the Hoops needed Foster to pull off a string of fine saves to keep the gap to one goal as the La Liga leaders held on to record the first Champions League group stage win at Celtic Park since 2004.
The result leaves Celtic bottom of H with no points from the first 2 games against AC Milan and Barcelona, but they will be hopeful of recording their fist points of the group in their upcoming double header against Ajax, as they attempt to qualify from the group of death.
Ajax and Milan drew 1-1 in Amsterdam and the two teams sit with 1 and 4 points respectively, but it is Barcelona who are leading the way with 6 points after 2 wins from 2.
If Celtic have any realistic chance of escaping the group of death, they must take maximum points from their remaining games against Ajax and Milan because Barcelona are looking very strong.