Messi double troubles Celtics

November 23, 2016

The little man with the beard stood with his hands on his hips, as 60,000 voices screamed at him and twirled their scarves in fury.

Lionel Messi, however, was not in the least bit bothered about the scrutiny after Barcelona had been awarded a chance to settle this contest.

He gave the impression this was a like a training game and nonchalantly clipped his penalty past Craig Gordon. And then there was silence.

 Barcelona captain Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his 24th-minute opener at Celtic Park on Wednesday night

Argentine Messi slots home with his left foot past Gordon after great work from Brazilian star Neymar (not pictured)

Messi (No 10) is congratulated on his goal by Neymar and 23-year-old Portugal international midfielder, Andre Gomes (left)

Messi celebrates with the majority of his Blaugrana colleagues after easily dispatching his spot-kick at Parkhead

Barca's talismanic skipper Messi smashed his left-footed penalty down the middle and past goalkeeper Craig Gordon

Messi got his second  in the 55th minute after Luis Suarez was fouled by Celtic's 30-year-old left back Emilio Izaguirre

CELTIC (4-2-3-1): Gordon 7; Lustig 6, Simunovic 6, Sviatchenko 6, Izaguirre 5; Armstrong 6, Brown 7; McGregor 6 (Roberts 72), Rogic 6 (Bitton 64), Sinclair 6.5 (Forrest 45); Dembele 6.

Subs not used: De Vries, Toure, Gamboa, Henderson.

BARCELONA (4-3-3): Ter Stegen 6; Roberto 7, Pique 7 (Marlon 72), Mascherano 8, Alba 7 (Digne 66); Rakitic 7, Busquets 7, Gomes 7; Messi 9, L Suarez 7, Neymar 7 (Turan 77).

Subs not used: Cillessen, D Suarez, Rafinha, Alcacer.

Scorers: Messi (24, 55 pen).

Booked: Roberto, Alba, Rakitic, Neymar.

Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy) 7.

Man of the Match: Lionel Messi.

Here is how Messi's opening goal materialised. Find out more about the game with our superb MATCH ZONE.

We knew Messi’s left foot had many magical qualities but now it seems to come with a mute button. Every time he got possession in this Champions League contest, a hush descended over Parkhead in dreaded anticipation.

Here was another night when he played a different game to those around him.

Brendan Rodgers had tapped into the emotions of supporters in his programme notes, imploring them to be ‘an integral part of the experience’ and they listened to his plea, creating a cacophony before that would have twisted the minds of many visiting teams.

This, though, is Barcelona and it takes more than noise to knock them out of their elegant, seamless stride; not even the scampering, snarling presence of captain Scott Brown – who flattened Sergio Busquets, Messi and Neymar in the space of four minutes – could blow their house down.

To stand any chance, Celtic were going to have to score first but they had one major problem: they couldn’t get the ball back off Barcelona. No matter how fast they chased, no matter how many of them formed packs to hunt, they were always one step behind.

 Celtic's young hitman Moussa Dembele has a chance to score with a header, as Jordi Alba cannot get tight enough

Celtic's 23-year-old Tom Rogic (centre) looks to get past (from left) Andre Gomes, Alba and Javier Mascherano

Messi (centre) smiles at Italian referee Daniele Orsato as Scott Brown raises his hands in disbelief after a free-kick is given

Celtic's Scott Sinclair (left) runs away with the ball with 29-year-old Messi for company during a frantic first period

Barca's Sergio Busquets (left) challenges Celtic's French forward Dembele for the ball during the Champions League tie

Busquets (No 5, left) protests his innocence as Celtic's 24-year-old midfielder Stuart Armstrong goes to ground

Celtic's 43-year-old Northern Irish manager Rodgers issues instructions to his players from the touchline

Croatian centre half Jozo Simunovic (left) holds off 29-year-old Uruguayan striker Suarez at Parkhead on Wednesday night

Nothing illustrated that point more than the move which led to the deadlock being broken. Neymar, Andre Gomes and Jordi Alba began passing in a triangle on the left, ramping up the tempo to leave their pursuers dizzy, before Neymar clipped an exquisite ball into Messi’s path.

The finish was typically glorious, swatted left footed inside the near post; it was goal number 53 of 2016, a haul that has come in 57 matches. Don’t ever become immune to those statistics because this truly is a player we will never see the like of again.

Barcelona should have settled things before the interval but a magnificent save from Craig Gordon thwarted Luis Suarez as he flung himself to get on the end of a Messi cross. No matter. Celtic were limited and it was a question of when rather than if their exalted hosts would finish the job.

That moment arrived on the hour after Suarez had been wrestled to the ground by Emilio Izguirre. It was a certain penalty and Messi ensured it was a certain goal, no matter how hard they home fans tried to unnerve him.

When he is in this mood, nothing will stop him.

Barca's decorates Spanish defender Gerard Pique (right) goes up against 20-year-old whizzkid Dembele

Celtic's Mikael Lustig and Barcelona's Neymar are both shown a yellow card by referee Orsato after a second-half scuffle

Neymar - who is now 24 years old - looks to get past the Hoops' 31-year-old No 8, and captain, Brown during the first-half

Rodgers' Scottish side (left) line up alongside Luis Enrique's Spanish visitors ahead of the match at a chilly Celtic Park



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