Game in a sentence
In 1967 Celtic came from behind to beat Inter Milan and win the European Cup final. On a cold, rainy night in Glasgow 45 years later they defeated Barcelona to secure their second greatest night, on the day after they turned 125 years old.
- The Glasgow Herald & Times Newspaper has a gallery on their website titled ‘Glasgow’s Greatest European Nights’ featuring names synonymous in the European history of the green and white hoops. Jimmy Johnstone, Tommy Gemmell, Alan Thompson & Henrik Larsson among others are highlighted and now it is time to add Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster & 18-year-old Tony Watt to that gallery.
- Celtic were magnificent, scoring a goal in each half to cause the biggest upset in this competition for some time. The goalscorers in Wanyama and Watt will rightly get the plaudits but this was a true team effort, one Neil Lennon and his assistants could have only dreamed during their preparation.
- The first goal was one drawn off the training field, from a set piece, swung in brilliantly by Charlie Mulgrew towards Jordi Alba at the back post who had no chance in the size advantage over Wanyama who headed home.
- So often how a huge underdog starts against Barcelona is pivotal and from start to finish Celtic defended in numbers, showed incredible concentration and kept compact through the middle.
- It, of course, didn’t take Barcelona long to counter such tactics but Celtic stuck to their plan even when the inevitable Barcelona onslaught took place. Unlike many clubs who would have to wait until half-time to be told what to do, the Spanish giants targeted the flanks, particularly through Dani Alves and Pedro on the right side. Indeed, the majority of the visitors’ best chances came via crosses, Jordi Alba’s ball that wasn’t touched in, Alexis Sanchez’s header from a ball by Alves and Pedro’s header off the post from Alves again.
- Yet Celtic still managed to more than just hold out as their back four all played their part, in particular left back Adam Matthews who had pace to defend narrowly and then break wide when needed.
- In goal, the athletic Fraser Forster thrived on being busy, made a brilliant save to push Lionel Messi’s shot on to the bar and, like all top goalkeepers, regularly showed his quality with his feet. As his side tired he again brilliantly stopped the World Player of the Year, palming away another effort while at 1-0.
- Tito Vilanova made three subs in the second half to attempt to break down Celtic, throwing on Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and David Villa but none made much of a difference. Fabregas was more direct than Alex Song, who was taken off after not being sent off by the referee, and played a part in a quick 1-2 with Pedro that led to Messi’s injury time goal but by then Celtic had two goals.
- Incredibly, the second goal of the game came from the home side and it was a moment that will be told and told again for generations to come. Foster’s long ball was poorly dealt with by Xavi and substitute Watt sprinted through and brilliantly shot the ball past Victor Valdes.
- The ground was rocking prior to that legendary moment but it reached an amazing crescendo when the ball hit the back of the net. Sometimes writing or talking about an atmosphere in a football ground is a little bit like saying a library was quiet or Hawaii is a wonderful place to go on vacation but tonight’s spectacle at Parkhead was absolutely taken to new heights by the a terrific home crowd. “I’ve never seen an atmosphere better than that,” added Lennon after the game.
- It was fitting that the fans were so heavily involved because everyone connected to this club played their part in what is a magnificent evening for them. This was not a smash-and-grab victory. When they got the ball they had the courage to play and Lennon deserves credit throwing on Watt when the game was 1-0.
- The youthful Watt, who looks like a boy who should be studying for his A levels, summed up his night after the game, saying: “it’s the best moment of my life, I will look back when I am older and think wow we beat Barcelona in the Champions League, nothing better than that is there?”
- Thanks to the local paper this image will live forever for Celtic fans:
By Kristian Jack.