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Thu 21 Feb 2008 06:37 AM

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Celtic crash to brilliant Barcelona

Celtic crashed to a 3-2 defeat at home after brilliant Barcelona swept them away.

Celtic crashed to a 3-2 defeat at home after a brilliant Barcelona display swept them away in a five goal Champions League thriller on Wednesday.

The Scottish champions had twice led, in the last 16, first leg tie.

However, Barcelona's Argentinean Lionel Messi cancelled out Dutch international Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's opener and, after Barry Robson had headed Celtic in front before half time, French forward Thierry Henry again levelled in the second half.

The Catalan club went on to score a deserved winner, with Messi completing his brace, to put the Spanish side in control ahead of the second leg at the Nou Camp on March 4.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was not happy with his side's performance.

He said: "It might have been a great game to watch for the neutrals but not for me."

"When you're playing one of the best teams in the world you need a bit of luck and nine or 10 of your players to be at their peak."

"We had neither and to have had a chance we needed to pass the ball better. We kept giving the ball away and that meant we needed to do a lot of chasing, became tired and made mistakes."

"The positives are we scored two goals against one of the best teams in the world but we lost two silly goals and lost the game."

With Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard banned from the touchline it was head coach Johann Neeskens who attended the post match press conference and he was delighted with the away victory.

He said: "We're happy with the result as no-one has beaten Celtic in Glasgow in the Champions League since we did almost four years ago.

"They were confident going into the game and showed what a strong team they are by leading 2-1 at half time, even though we had dominated."

"But we managed to score two goals in the second half and created chances to score more so we're very happy."

Celtic had taken the lead against the run of play in the 16th minute.

Aiden McGeady crossed for Australian striker Scott McDonald, who did well to hold the ball up in the box before rolling it back to Lee Naylor, and his cross was met by Vennegoor of Hesselink who sent a diving header beyond Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

The home fans in the 58,345 crowd erupted but within only two minutes later Barcelona, were level.

Messi played a quick one-two with Portuguese playmaker Deco, taking Naylor out of the play, and the Argentine international smashed a superb shot into the roof of the net.

Amazingly Celtic again took the lead in the 38th minute.

Fantastic footwork from McGeady took him away from Carles Puyol and the Republic of Irelend international looked up before chipping the ball over the Barcelona rearguard for Robson to send a looping header from 12-yards over Valdes and into the net.

Barcelona started the second half looking for a second equaliser and in the 52nd minute they duly got it.

Celtic's centre-half Gary Caldwell had been playing well but inexplicably gifted the ball to Ronaldinho.

The Brazilian passed to Henry and the Frenchman cut inside before sending a tremendous curling shot across the face of Celtic's Polish goalkeeper Boruc and into the opposite top corner of the net.

And in the 79th minute the visitors scored the winner they were looking for.

Samuel Eto'o, who had replaced Ronaldinho in the 73rd minute, crossed from the left, and when Celtic captain Stephen McManus' attempted clearance rebounded off Italian teammate Massimo Donati, Messi gratefully collected and clinically directed into the bottom corner of the net.

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