Cesc Fabregas’s finely crafted late goal earned Barcelona a 1-0 win over 10-man Celtic, although they clearly missed the mercurial talent of the injured Lionel Messi in their Group H Champions League game in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday.
The Spanish champions, surprisingly beaten 2-1 in the corresponding match last season, created few chances despite dominating possession at an electric Celtic Park.
The only goal came after 76 minutes when Neymar, well policed by the disciplined Celtic defense, swept the ball out to substitute Alexis Sanchez on the right and his back-post cross was headed home by the unmarked Fabregas.
It was hard on Celtic, who by then were down to 10 men, having had skipper Scott Brown dismissed just before the hour mark for catching Neymar in the back with his boot after the Brazilian went down in a challenge.
“Celtic are a great team who always demand the best from you,” Fabregas told Spanish TV.
Barcelona are top of Group H with six points from two games, while Celtic have yet to score.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon said before the match he felt a “tinge of sadness” that Messi’s skills would not be on show.
“It’s impossible not to miss Leo, that would be the same for any team,” Barca coach Gerardo Martino told Spanish TV.
It was an absorbing contest of artistry against industry, but Celtic showed no fear against Barca.
Celtic’s best chance came after the sending off and three minutes before Barca scored, when a 20m James Forrest drive forced a superb diving save out of Victor Valdes before Charlie Mulgrew headed wide.
Near the end, as gaps appeared in the Celtic defense, ’keeper Fraser Forster produced three fine saves to keep Barca at bay.