Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has claimed that Celtic were ‘lucky’ in their 2-1 midweek victory over the Spanish giants in the Champion’s League.
The Ballon d’Or favourite for the fourth year in succession dealt Celtic an insulting blow after their triumph, which I believe they fully deserved.
The Group G fixture at Parkhead will go down in history as one of the club’s most astonishing victories against arguably the best team in the world – and the best player in the world.
“They were very lucky. It's a shame but we just couldn't do anything about it. We did everything in the game but just couldn't get past them," claimed the Argentine.
"Celtic came at us twice and got two goals from it. When they scored they just locked their defence. The first goal from the corner arrived because they are a bigger team than us - it was the same as their goal in the Nou Camp.”
But Messi’s comments do Celtic an injustice – they weren’t simply ‘lucky’’ – they worked incredibly hard as individuals and as a collective on Wednesday night. They weren’t ‘lucky’ to take the lead in the 21st minute from a Victor Wanyama header, which had clearly been practiced in training.
Their in-demand 21-year-old midfielder drove his run in at the back post for the corner – isolating Barcelona’s smallest defender Jordi Alba by design.
Nor were they 'lucky' to retain their lead for the subsequent seventy-odd minutes, their goalkeeper Fraser Forster was impeccable and deserves the acclaim he is duly receiving in retrospect. Barcelona had 25 shots in the game, 14 on-target and all but one of them was parried by the young keeper.
They weren’t 'lucky' at all that right-back Mikael Lustig picked up an injury in the second half and had to be substituted for an inexperienced Champion’s League debutante in 18-year-old striker Tony Watt.
Tony Watt wasn’t ‘lucky’ with his finish – a ball sent high and long from the goalkeeper bounced awkwardly in the Barca half and the young man got the better of the not unlucky but rather unprepared Javier Mascherano, subsequently slipping the ball into the bottom left corner of Victor Valdes’ net.
At 2-0 up on 83 minutes they surely felt unlucky to go behind on 91 minutes to the best player in the world, just as they had been very very unlucky to concede a late winner to Jordi Alba in the 94th minute in their fixture at the Nou Camp last month.
They had taken the lead in the 18th minute of that game via Georgios Samaras who demonstrated his worth to his team in both fixtures chasing down every ball thrown at him as Celtic resorted to clearances which he still managed to hold up, work off and take the pressure off his side’s wearying defence.
Celtic deserved their historic victory at Parkhead and shame on the best player in the world for dismissing their industry and endeavour, which earned them their win.
If Celtic manage to proceed to the knock-out rounds of the competition, I have no doubt they will grab their opportunity with both hands – you could see on Wednesday night what it means to the players, the fans and the manager.
They should all feel incredibly lucky to be part of a club that shows such passion and dedication.