CELTIC succumbed to a Lionel Messi masterclass as they collapsed to their worst-ever defeat in European history during a torrid Champions League opener.

The previous highest loss in an unwanted record was also against Barcelona at the same ground in a 6-1 demolition job in 2014.

If it was paradise in Parkhead on Saturday, it was a nightmare in the Nou Camp tonight.

Messi, the Argentinian superstar, gifted with an astonishing array of skills, was simply unstoppable as he swept around the pitch and netted a hat-trick to hoist his Champions League total to a breathtaking EIGHTY-SIX!

And, as Brendan Rodgers must have feared, Messi was ably backed up by his former Liverpool player Luis Suarez, who claimed two, and Brazilian bag-of-tricks Neymar, who chipped in with a free-kick.

The other goal came from Andres Iniesta, a second-half substitute, who almost burst the net with a first-time effort from 12 yards.

And, yet, it might have been so different. Moussa Dembele, the hat-trick hero from the weekend, had the opportunity to level from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute.

His effort was pushed away by keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Messi scored his second goal of the game exactly two minutes and 46 seconds later.

It was a night for the Hoops to forget where too many players froze in sweltering conditions in the Catalan capital.

The Spaniards’ flashing, mesmering movements had the defenders chasing shadows for most of the evening. They afforded Barca far too much respect and there were far too many misplaced passes all over the pitch.

Rodgers had a couple of surprises for the fans even before the kick-off. He brought in Costa Rican right-back Cristian Gamboa, bought for £1million from West Brom on the closing day of last month’s transfer window.

And he elected to to go for Patrick Roberts wide on the right with the experienced James Forrest on the bench.

The starting line-up contained all five players brought in by the Irishman – as well as Gamboa, there were places for Dorus De Vries, Kolo Toure, Scott Sinclair and Dembele.

Celtic got off to the worst possible start when Messi scored in only three minutes and it was a catalogue of errors from the Celtic players who presented him with the opening.

Neymar worked a short corner-kick with Jordi Alba on the left and Scott Brown and Nir Bitton were drawn out of position, it was pushed through to Messi with new Bhoy Gamboa hopefully claiming offside.

The little wizard had timed his run to perfection and drilled the ball across De Vries and into the far corner. The Dutch keeper gave Messi far too much to aim at and Rodgers’ men were under pressure immediately.

Sinclair set up Dembele for the penalty award when he finished a good run with a neat pass. The French striker was hauled down by the keeper who was immediately booked before getting up, dusting himself down and then pushing the Celt’s effort away at his right-hand side.

The second goal was the result of a sweeping move that contained 19 passes and was finished off with ease by Messi after he had been set up by Neymar.

The misery continued after the break when Neymar netted a third in the 50th minute. Bitton bundled over Messi and Barca were awarded a free-kick about 25 yards out.

The Brazilian took it and sent it high past De Vries, who looked slow to react as the ball wasn’t in the top corner and looked saveable.

The fourth arrived in the 59th minute and this time there was little the goalie could do as Iniesta hit a left-wing Neymar cross on the volley and the ball simply tore past him into the net.

A mere 76 seconds later De Vries was picking the ball out of the rigging again when Messi hit a neat ball to Neymar, followed in his own pass and bundled it in from two yards.

In the 75th minute, Celtic capitulated again when Neymar picked out Suarez who took the ball on his chest, swivelled and hammered a shot past the keeper who stood motionless. To be fair, he wasn’t being given a lot of protection from a shell-shocked rearguard.

And the agony came to an end with the seventh goal two minutes from time when Messi set it up for Suarez who couldn’t miss.

A dreadful night for Celtic, but lessons to be learned. Hopefully, quickly!

At least no toilets were harmed in Barcelona tonight.

TEAM: De Vries; Gamboa, Lustig, Toure, Sviatchenko (Sub: O’Connell 68), Tierney; Roberts (sub: Armstrong 68), Brown, Bitton (sub: McGregor 76), Sinclair; Dembele.


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