A Barcelona side that has been unbeaten at home all season and widely billed as vastly superior to Celtic were never expecting much of a challenge in their Champions League clash against the Scottish champions. Celtic, however, never gave up hope of securing at least a point and played to their strengths, defending stoically and utilising their aerial prowess. In this fashion, they scored the opener after Georgios Samaras headed the ball and looked set to disappoint the local fans who were hoping for an assured victory.
However, the watching fans need not have worried as Barca, despite all their players being closely man-marked, managed to score towards the end of both halves to secure the win. Andres Iniesta first completed a brilliant team effort and Jordi Alba scored somewhat fortuitously with what appeared to be last kick of the game as he tapped in a cross at the far post.
The Catalan side, not for the first time, struggled against a decidedly negative and defensive-oriented tactic but Neil Lennon's side demonstrated such courage that those who were watching felt sorry to see them endure a defeat in such dramatic fashion. Our Breakdown analyses the match and picks out what went right for Celtic and what Barcelona might need to consider before the return leg in Glasgow if they don't want to leave it so late to secure the three points.
Tito Vilanova, the Barcelona coach, had earmarked this department as being particularly weak and it showed as Javier Mascherano made a number of hasty challenges, Adriano made too many forays forward and Alex Song struggled to replicate the dismissed Sergio Busquets' astute defensive positioning skills. Luckily for them, Samaras, who repeatedly beat them at aerial challenges, was substituted towards the end of the first half following an ankle injury and Barca regained their shape and discipline from then on.
The only cause for optimism for the department was young Marc Bartra's impressive European outing as he demonstrated a keenness to get into goalscoring positions and nearly grabbed his first goal in the Champions League.
Valdes - 7 | Adriano - 6 | Bartra - 8 | Mascherano - 6 | Alba - 8
Undoubtedly, the Barcelona midfield were better than their counterparts in the game as they boasted up to 80% possession but were disappointing by their own standards. On the other hand, it's also a testament to the focus and diligence displayed by the Celtic players. Only Iniesta managed to send in defence-splitting passes with any regularity and Xavi's wayward shot in the second half aptly summed up his frustrations on the night.
Song, who has a penchant to hit aerial through-balls, does not perfecty blend into the short-passing rhythm popular at Barcelona and did not position himself into zones from which the ball could be intercepted as Busquets would have done. Surprisingly, the Barcelona midfield, usually impressive in their control of the ball, also struggled with their first touch in the match.
Xavi - 6 | Iniesta - 8 | Song - 6
As the players given licence to roam the farthest, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez could have made themselves useful by helping in the buildup of the attack but they were far too eager to score and tried to plant themselves inside the six-yard box on too many an occasion.
Lionel Messi, on the other hand, was far more determined to find an opening and tried many different ways to get on the scoresheet - the diminutive Argentinean even went close with a close-range header. Unfortunately, a number of Celtic players were tasked with providing not-so-tender loving care in order to effectively diminish his influence and he failed to grab a goal.
Sanchez (off 80') - 6 | Messi - 7.5 | Pedro (off 76') - 6
With Cesc Fabregas and David Villa both available on the bench, it was a strange decision to bring on Cristian Tello first and the youngster was anonymous down the left flank. Villa was introduced four minutes later but only managed to get one attempt on goal during his brief stint on the pitch.
Tello (on 76') - 6 | Villa (on 80') - N/A
Rarely do players deserve the man-of-the-match accolade while being on the losing side at the Camp Nou but Forster played the game of his life. He was ever-ready to scoop up through-balls, made flying saves and demonstrated lightning-quick reflexes.
And he must have been buoyed by the physical, but not necessarily dirty, defending carried out by the backline on the night. All four defenders closely marked every Barcelona player outside the box and tracked their runs with precision, preventing them from finding the space from which to unleash dangerous shots. Furthermore, they kept such a tight line that Barcelona's tendency to try and break the offside trap proved to be a useless tactic (until Alba finally got it right towards the end).
Efe Ambrose deserves to be singled out for praise for his bravery and his tackle from behind that cleanly got the ball off Messi in the second half and it even amazed the world player of the year.
Forster - 8.5 | Lustig - 7.5 | Izaguirre - 7 | Ambrose - 8 | Wilson - 7.5
The midfielders put an extra shift in defence at the Camp Nou and Victor Wanyama and Brown constantly harried Iniesta and Xavi to make it impossible for them to have a moment's respite. While they did not produce too much guile with their passing, they did not just hoof the ball away and constantly attempted to muster counter-attacks and were successful in giving the Barca defence cause for concern.
Mulgrew (off 76') - 7.5 | Brown (off 63') - 7.5 | Ledley - 7.5 | Wanyama - 8
Celtic's Greek striker Samaras wa more than just a Goliath-like presence who bullied the Barcelona defenders with his size as he controlled the ball rather well, helping initiate and complete attacking plays until his unfortunate injury. Knowing that set pieces were the best outlet for a goal, he took his chance from a Charles Mulgrew free-kick well to score Celtic's goal. Hooper, on the other hand, was not as instrumental but remained energetic and hard-working and gave Mascherano a hard time in the game.
Samaras (off 43') - 8 | Hooper - 7
21-year-old James Forrest had tough boots to fill after being brought on for Samaras but he instantly proved a hit for the watching Celtic fans as his first touch took the ball past a diving Adriano and nearly led to the second goal as his cross was inches away from being connected by Hooper in the Barcelona box. Kris Commons and Beram Kayal were not as useful with their introductions but put in a good shift for their sides.
Forrest (on 43') - 7.5 | Commons (on 63') - 6.5 | Kayal (on 76') - N/A