A Jordi Alba goal deep into stoppage time was enough to break Celtic hearts as they went down 2-1 to Barcelona in an enthralling Group G encounter at the Nou Camp.
It was rough justice on the Scottish champions who initially led through a Javier Mascherano own goal on 18 minutes. Andres Iniesta equalised for Barcelona on the stroke of half-time, but the home side couldn’t find a way through a heroic Celtic defence in the second half until Alba popped up to win it at the death.
Barcelona were firm favourites going into the match, but Neil Lennon’s men will have been boosted by their fine display against Spartak Moscow last time out and would have been hopeful getting something from the match.
As expected the home side were on the attack right from the off and almost took the lead with less than two minutes on the clock when Iniesta threaded a ball through for Alexis to shoot just wide from a tight angle. Celtic goalkeeper Frazer Forster then had to be alert on the quarter hour to beat out a close range header from Bartra after a good move from a corner involving Messi and Iniesta.
But it was Celtic who were ahead just moments later when Giorgios Samaras got on the end of a free-kick from the right only for the ball to hit Mascherano and nestle in the bottom corner of the net.
It was very much against the run of play and Barcelona immediately poured forward in search of an equaliser but, despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, they struggled to create too many clearcut chances. When Messi sent a free kick just over from 25 yards, it looked like Celtic would hang on until the break. But after a slick passing move on the edge of the box, Iniesta sent a snap shot low past Forster to bring the sides level on the stroke of half-time.
Messi sent a cheeky volley just wide as the second half began at a frenetic pace. Wanyama should have put Celtic back in front on 52 minutes when he rose unchallenged to meet a Charlie Mulgrew corner just six yards out but failed to hit the target.
Barcelona now started to turn the screw and Forster was forced into a superb point blank save from Messi on 67 minutes after the Argentinian got on the end of a teasing low cross from Adriano. He was called into action again after a cleverly looped Iniesta ball over the top found Messi who sent a firm header towards the top corner only for the Bhoys stopper to somehow claw the ball around the post.
Substitute David Villa hit the outside of the post as the game headed into stoppage time and it looked as though Celtic had done enough to earn a point. But Jordi Alba got a faint touch on an Adriano cross to win it with virtually the last kick of the game to send Neil Lennon’s side home empty-handed but still second in the group after Spartak’s victory over Benfica earlier in the day.