Celtic sent shockwaves around Europe as they produced a stunning 2-1 Group G win over Barcelona at Parkhead on Wednesday to end the Catalan giants’ 100 percent record in this season’s competition.
Just as they had done in the Camp Nou two weeks ago, Celtic took the lead against the run of play when Victor Wanyama headed them ahead in the 21st minute.
Barcelona, who have made a record-breaking start to their domestic campaign and had not previously lost in the group stages for more than three years, dominated possession, but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, with Lionel Messi hitting the crossbar and Alexis Sanchez heading against the post in the first half.
Fraser Forster produced heroics in the Celtic goal to deny Barca, with the ’keeper superbly stopping further efforts from Alexis and Messi after the break.
Celtic’s chances were few and far between, but they increased their lead in the 83rd minute when teenager Tony Watt, on as a substitute, scored a breakaway goal just 11 minutes into his Champions League debut.
Messi gave Barca hope in stoppage-time when he pulled one back, but the Hoops held on for a famous win the day after the club celebrated its 125th birthday.
Neil Lennon’s side, who gained revenge for their stoppage-time 2-1 defeat in the Camp Nou, now sit second in Group G on seven points, just two behind the Catalan giants, and could qualify with a game to spare if they get a draw or better against SL Benfica in two weeks time.
With several first-team players already missing, Celtic had been dealt another blow before kick off when skipper Scott Brown was ruled out with a virus and Gary Hooper failed to recover from injury.
Barcelona had their own injury problems to deal with in defense, but Gerard Pique found a place on the bench for the first time since September.
The Catalan giants had dominated possession at the Camp Nou and started in a similar fashion in Glasgow.
However, after earning Celtic’s first corner of the match, Charlie Mulgrew fizzed his delivery to the back post, where Wanyama rose above Marc Bartra to thump a header past Victor Valdes.
Following that it was all one-traffic toward the Celtic goal, with Messi coming within centimeters of equalizing when he collected a pass from Andres Iniesta in the box before cracking a half-volley off the bar.
Alexis then sent an angled header into the turf and cannoning off the base of the post, after getting on the end of a Dani Alves cross in another let-off for Celtic.
The Hoops continued to frustrate Spain’s league leaders after the break.
Forster was keeping Celtic in the match and he showed his worth moments later when he got down smartly to stop a drilled strike from Alexis, and then made a second save with his legs to deny the Chilean forward.
There were more heroics from Forster in the 70th minute when he produced a superb one-handed save to stop Messi’s strike from close range.
Unbelievably, Celtic then increased their lead in the 83rd minute. Forster saved a Messi free-kick and his long kick out was then missed by Xavi, allowing substitute Watt to get behind Javier Mascherano and drill a shot beyond Valdes.
Messi pulled one back after Forster had done well to keep out sub Cesc Fabregas’ shot as the Argentine reacted quickest to lift the ball into the net from close range.