Barcelona brushed aside Celtic with an inspired 13-minute Neymar hat-trick to top group H and add their name to the list of potential opponents for Arsenal and Manchester City in the draw for the last 16..
Even without Andres Iniesta who was left on the bench, Leo Messi, still recuperating in Argentina, and Cesc Fabregas suspended, their comfortable victory never looked in doubt.
Neymar was handed central striking responsibilities and he did not disappoint with the fourth fastest hat-trick in Champions League history in the six goal drubbing.
Barcelona: Pinto Colorado 6, Montoya 8, Adriano 7, Busquets 8 (Song 73), Mascherano 7, Pique 8, Sergi 8, Xavi 8, Neymar 10 (Dongou 81), Pedro 8, Sanchez 9 (Tello 63)
Subs not used: Puyol, Iniesta, Alba, Olazabal Paredes
Goals: Pique 7, Pedro 39, Neymar 45 48 58, Tello 72
Celtic: Forster 6, Lustig 5, Matthews 4 (Stokes 82), Brown 5, Ambrose 4, van Dijk 5, Boerrigter 4, Ledley 5, Pukki 3 (Mulgrew 45), Biton 4 (Commons 69), Samaras 5
Subs not used: Balde, Zaluska, Atajic, Fisher
Goal: Samaras 88
Booked: Brown, Matthews
Referee: Sergey Karasev
Neil Lennon had said before the game that the Brazilian still had some growing up to do and was ‘immature’ despite his talent. This was a growing up of sorts as he became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League and the Copa de Libertadores.
Lennon said: ‘I said before the game that Neymar can make very good players look ordinary and he showed what a good player he can become tonight.’
But he was scathing when asked about his own team’s performance.
He said: ‘Barca were very good but we were very poor and some of the players’ performances were unacceptable. There was no bravery on the ball tonight.
‘We were weak and that has not been like us. We were well below the standard we have set ourselves in the last couple of years. I only got character from three or four of my players.
‘The players were very quiet before the game tonight and that was a worry. There were a lot of half-hearted performances from the team.
It was a trial of sorts for England number two Fraser Forster. He continues to be linked with Barcelona as they search for a keeper to replace Victor Valdes at the end of the season.
But Forster was flat out in the back of his own net as early as the seventh minute after Gerard Pique scored. Forster blocked Alexis Sanchez’ shot but could not save from the Spain defender.
The game also reunited Neymar with Scott Brown who was sent off for a foul on him at Celtic Park earlier in the season. Neymar was robbed brilliantly by Brown midway through the first half and Adam Mathews also got in ahead of the Brazilian as Celtic kept the score down.
The visitors were given a half chance by Xavi’s miscontrol at the other end but Joe Ledley’s cross went beyond Teemu Pukki. Brown then swept the ball out to Georgios Samaras and he won a corner off of Pique but as it was played back out to Nir Biton his shot was charged down.
Some Barcelona fans began chanting: ‘Barca yes, Rosell no’ – a reflection of discontent among some supporters over the way the club president Sandro Rosell is failing to keep together the players who were so successful under Pep Guardiola.
Out on the pitch Barca had fewer problems however and Pedro and Neymar scored to make it 3-0 at the break.
Neymar got his second just after the break shooting past Forster after being played in by Xavi. But for a fine save from Forster from Xavi’s free-kick it would have been five before the 50th minute.
As it was it was five on 57 minutes when Neymar nutmeged Ambrose and completed his hat-trick in record time. That was the cue for perhaps the biggest insult any visiting team can be paid at the Camp Nou – the Mexican wave started.
There was still time for a Celtic-assisted sixth as Tello’s shot deflected past Forster off his own defender Virgil van Dijk. Samaras headed in consolation goal three minutes time but it really was too easy for Barca.
FASTEST CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HAT-TRICKS
|07/12/2011||Bafetimbi Gomis||Lyon||Dinamo Zagreb
|25/11/1992||Marco van Basten
|07/12/2012||Claudio Pizarro||Bayern Munich
Source : Daily maily