Celtic stun Barcelona with historic 2-1 win in Glasgow
Even Barca's coach applauds Celtic's 'amazing' fans and 'brilliant' goalkeeper Fraser Forster
Celtic 2 Barcelona 1. The green-and-white half of Glasgow hasn't known a night like it since Jock Stein's Lisbon Lions beat Inter Milan 2-1 to win the 1967 European Cup. Last night it was the turn of another giant of European football to be battered by the Bhoys as Barcelona suffered one of the biggest shocks in the recent history of the Champions League.
For the past three seasons Celtic have been reduced to playing in the Europa League, while Barcelona have been the preeminent side in the Champions League, winning the title three times in the last seven years as well as lifting the FIFA World Club Cup on two occasions.
But the Spanish side had no answer against a Celtic side missing several key players, and only a stoppage time goal from Lionel Messi added a touch of respectability to the scoreline.
"To win the game under huge difficulties with the squad decimated by injuries and illness… the players are heroes," exclaimed Celtic manager Neil Lennon.
"I can't speak highly enough of their performance tonight and they will go down in the history books of the club as the team who beat probably the best team in the world. Everyone goes on about tactics but football is about players and they have covered themselves in glory tonight."
Although Victor Wanyama and teenager sensation Tony Watt have grabbed most of the headlines for their goal-scoring feats, it was the brilliance of the Bhoys' keeper Fraser Forster that kept Barcelona at bay during a frenetic second half. Roared on by a raucous Celtic Park, the 6ft 7in Forster produced a string of outstanding saves as the hosts defended their 1-0 advantage.
And having weathered a Catalan storm, Celtic grabbed a second on 82 minutes when substitute Watt ran on to Forster's clearance kick and coolly slotted the ball past Victor Valdes in the Barcelona goal. Celtic Park went potty.
There was still time for a twist as Lionel Messi finally broke Forster's resistance with a close-range strike in injury time. Surely Barcelona weren't going to deny Celtic their night of triumph?
The Bhoys clung on for a victory that impressed even Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova. "I would like to congratulate Celtic, the fans were amazing tonight… their goalkeeper was brilliant," he said later.
The result leaves Celtic second in Group G, two points behind Barcelona and three ahead of Benfica, the Bhoys' next opponents in a fortnight's time. Come away from a point in Portugal and Celtic then have to negotiate a home tie against bottom-placed Spartak Moscow to book their place in the knockout phase of the competition for the first time since 2007/08.
"The problem the players and staff will have to deal with is that the expectation level will increase"," admitted Lennon."But that's for the future, I want the players to enjoy the moment and take it all in."