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  • Spirited Celts impress in defeat to Barcelona

    Spirited Celts impress in defeat to Barcelona

    By: Mark Henderson in Dublin on 30 Jul, 2016 20:02

  • International Champions Cup
    Aviva Stadium, Dublin
    Saturday, July 30, 2016

    (Griffiths 29)

    (Turan 11, Ambrose 31, Munir 40)

    A SPIRITED showing from Celtic was not enough to prevent them from going down to a 3-1 defeat by Barcelona in the International Champions Cup in Dublin.

    Arda Turan clinically put the Catalan giants in front at packed Aviva Stadium with their first shot of the game but the Hoops levelled through the prolific Leigh Griffiths – a goal they thoroughly merited.

    An own goal from Efe Ambrose and a close-range strike from Munir put the Spanish champions back in charge before half-time.

    There were no further goals in the second half of an entertaining match but the thousands of Celtic fans in attendance signalled their appreciation for their side’s efforts at the final whistle.  

    Brendan Rodgers made four changes to the team that started away to FC Astana on Wednesday night: Saidy Janko, Emilio Izaguirre, Nir Bitton and James Forrest all came into the side at the expense of Mikael Lustig, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong and Moussa Dembele.

    And the Hoops almost gave the massed ranks of green-and-white inside the ground something to celebrate with only 10 seconds on the clock.

    Pressing Barcelona straight from the kick off, Patrick Roberts seized upon an errant pass around 30 yards from goal. He needed little invitation to drive into the box and take aim, his curling shot flying inches beyond the far post.

    It was a passage of play you would normally associate with the Catalan side, along with a dominance of possession and Luis Enrique’s side were soon seeing plenty of the ball.

    But the next opportunity again fell to the Hoops after a dazzling piece of wing-play from Roberts. Leaving several Barcelona defenders for dead, he burst in from the right and flashed another drive past the post.   

    The Spanish champions had failed to test Craig Gordon in the opening stages yet they took the lead with their first attempt on target. Aleix Vidal showed some sublime skill to evade James Forrest on the byline and cut the ball back for Turan who found the top corner from the edge of the area with an exquisite finish.

    Lionel Messi had been relatively quiet by his high standards but a clever pass from the Argentinean superstar sent Camara galloping into the box but the left-back could only find the side-netting.

    As Roberts continued to cause havoc with his trickery and movement, Celtic almost levelled through the unlikely figure of captain Scott Brown.

    Closing down Jeremy Mathieu, the skipper pounced on the defender’s pass and forced Jordi Masip into action with a low shot after racing into the box.

    The mercurial Messi was becoming livelier and Janko did well to get back thwart the playmaker as he looked to collect a return pass in the box.

    And just before the half-hour mark, Celtic drew level through a defensive mishap much to the delight of the vast majority of the Aviva Stadium.

    Centre-half Jose Martinez attempted to collect a pass across his own goal but his touch let him down and that allowed the ever-alert Griffiths to lash home from close-range.

    But as the Hoops faithful were still celebrating, Barca regained the advantage when Camara’s low cross was turned into his own goal by the unfortunate Ambrose.

    That didn’t deter Brendan Rodgers’ side who were still attacking with plenty of confidence and swagger, and another slick passing move saw Izaguirre get a sight of goal in the box, though the Honduran couldn’t generate any power in his final effort.

    On the balance of chances, the Scottish champions didn’t deserve to be behind, but five minutes before the interval they found themselves two adrift. Messi began the move with a precise cross-field pass and it culminated in Suarez cutting the ball back for Munir, who applied the finish.

    Celtic made wholesale changes for the start of the second half, sending on Leo Fasan, Kristoffer Ajer, Tom Rogic, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Allan, Nadir Ciftci and Moussa Dembele for Craig Gordon, Eoghan O’Connell, Bitton, Brown, Roberts, Callum McGregor and Griffiths.

    The reshuffled side made an encouraging start as Ciftci fired narrowly over following Dembele’s lay-off. Rogic was also into the thick of the action and he flashed an effort wide from 25 yards after being found by Forrest.  

    Fasan was called into action for the first time in the 58th minute when he made a smart save from Denis Suarez. Straight up the other end, Rogic embarked on a solo run but he was crowded out in the box before he could pull the trigger.

    As both sides made further changes, play became less structured though Celtic persevered and could have scored on several occasions - Armstrong had a shot saved by Masip, Ciftci curled a free-kick over and the impressive Rogic lashed wide.

    The game may have ended in defeat for the Bhoys but the manager will take plenty of encouragement from the performance ahead of next weeks’ crucial return match in the Champions League with Astana.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon (Fasan 46); Janko (Ralston 63), Ambrose (McCart 63), O’Connell (O’Connell 46), Izaguirre (Fisher 78); Brown (Allan 46), Bitton (Armstrong 46), McGregor (Rogic 46); Roberts (Ciftci 46), Griffiths (Dembele 46), Forrest (Christie 63)
    Not Used:

    FC BARCELONA (4-3-3) Masip (Suarez Garcia 78); Vidal, J.A Martinez (Gumbau 78), Mathieu (Santos 60), Camara (Perdomo 78); D. Suarez (Mujica 60), Roberto (Alena 60), Turan (Carbonell 60); Messi (Samper 46), Suarez (Alfaro 60), Munir (B. Lopez 78)
    Not Used: Tello, J. Martinez

    Website Man of the Match: Patrick Roberts 

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