CELTIC 1 BARCELONA 3
EVEN world superstar Lionel Messi couldn’t keep Efe Ambrose from taking centre stage in front of 47,900 fans in the International Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin tonight.
Once again a high-profile howler from the Nigerian defender cost Celtic dearly as they toppled to defeat against Barcelona.
The contest was all-square at 1-1 up to the half-hour mark when Ambrose intervened to turn the game away from Brendan Rodgers’ side after the gift of an unlucky own goal.
There can be few excuses apart from rotten luck. There were no Barca players behind him and Eoghan O’Connell was ideally placed to deal with the danger. Maybe a shout could have helped. Who knows.
However, Ambrose sliced the ball away from the groping fingers of the stunned Craig Gordon to put the Spaniards ahead and they never looked back after that.
It would be harsh heap all the blame on the player for the defeat, James Forrest yet again cost Celtic a goal against Barcelona, once again through half hearted defending for the opener.
Any Celtic supporter booing a Celtic player at a match needs to have a think about that behaviour. It’s embarrassing.
Ten minutes later, El Haddadi Munir hit the third after Luis Suarez had stuck the ball through Ambrose’s legs in the penalty box and the opportunity sat up perfectly for the Barca striker to fire past Gordon.
Rodgers played two different teams over the course of the evening, but there are still problems to be solved before Wednesday vital Champions League qualifier against Kazakhstan’s Astana after last week’s 1-1 draw.
Remarkably, the Hoops almost got off to a sensational start in front of the huge crowd with a goal in 15 seconds when Patrick Roberts snapped up a misplaced crossfield pass and bore down on goal.
He switched the ball to his left foot to send a curling effort wide of the desperately diving Jordi Misap, but the ball swept just wide of the relieved keeper’s right-hand post.
Barca retaliated and took the lead in the 11th minute with a sweet strike from Arda Turan from the edge of the box.
Celtic were carved open on the left-hand side when Aleix Vidal beat James Forrest far too easily as he slipped the ball between his legs before picking out his team-mate unmarked 20 yards out.
Turan didn’t hesitate as he made perfect contact with a sweeping right foot that delivered an unstoppable effort high over Craig Gordon’s left shoulder into the top corner of the net.
Scott Brown was given the ideal opportunity to respond in the 20th minute when he intercepted a ball out of defence and raced into the penalty area.
However, the skipper’s final effort was far too close to the keeper and Misap comfortably flopped on the ball.
Five minutes later, Saidy Janko did some superb work just in front of Gordon as Messi thought he was about to double the Spanish superstars’ advantage.
Suarez picked out his team-mate with a neat reverse pass, but the Hoops right-back anticipated the move, got in front of the Barca captain and cleared up the situation with a fair amount of aplomb.
Leigh Griffiths – who else? – levelled in the 29th minute after an untypical mix-up in the Spaniards’ back-line.
Keeper Misap rolled the ball to Antonio Martinez who miscontrolled it and only succeeded in presenting the deadliest hitman in Scottish football with an unmissable opportunity right in front of goal. Griffiths gratefully rolled the ball into the inviting net.
But, within 60 seconds, Barca were back in front courtesy of that Ambrose own goal as he diverted the left-wing cross into his own net. Munir knocked in the third to complete the scoring.
There is much for the Celtic manager to ponder, but on the plus side there was the ambitious attacking display from Roberts on the right and O’Connell’s assured defending.
But, in the first-half, Celtic got little from Callum McGregor in an offensive sense, Nir Bitton lacked invention and movement and Rodgers couldn’t have failed to note that Forrest was caught offside three times in the first 30 minutes.
Brown, Bitton and McGregor made way for Scott Allan, Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong after the interval, among the seven substitutions made by Rodgers, but the game failed to ignite.
Nadir Ciftci and Moussa Dembele, on for Griffiths and Roberts, tried hard, but didn’t get the service to threaten the Barca back lot.
Messi remained in the dressing room at half-time and Suarez joined him on the hour mark as Luis Enrique introduced some of his young talent.
It was an interesting and intriguing encounter, but Celtic still need to add some attacking guile to the middle of the park to create chances for Griffiths and Dembele.
No-one will know that better than Brendan Rodgers.
TEAM: Gordon (sub: Fasan 46); Janko (sub: Ralston 63), Ambrose (sub: McCart 63), O’Connell (sub: Ajer 46), Izaguirre (sub: Fisher 78); Brown (sub: Allan 46), Bitton (sub: Rogic 46), McGregor (sub: Armstrong 46); Roberts (sub: Ciftci 46), Griffiths (sub: Dembele 46), Forrest (sub: Christie 63).
Once Upon a Time in the Kingdom of Govania is written by CQN’er MEA CULPA and is beautifully illustrated by the wonderfully talented CARTUJA.
Set in Medieval times it is a story of greed, corruption, cheating and skullduggery.
Some of the main characters may well ring a bell or two. There’s David the Lamb Giver and his financial assistant Baxendale de Porno.
Queen Beth sends Sir Hector of Taxem to Govania not long after David the Lamb Giver’s trusted ally Banquo Scotus in the terrible batte of Krunching Kredit.
On the story goes as Sir Googly of Ayes is Hailed as the new knight of the realm.
Sir Charles de Verre, the terrible Ogre, Mash the Scrotum Gripper and many more sort of familiar characters all enter the story of the fantastic fall of Govania and the emergence of Sevconia at Castle Ibroke.
Once Upon a Time in the Kingdom Of Govania is an Escaped Goat Production for Celtic Quick News and Internet Bampots and is available exclusively from www.cqnbookstore.com with a limited number copies remaining.