Barca and Neymar back to their best in Celtic win

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

Denis Doyle/Getty ImagesNeymar scored his first Champions League goal as part of a hat trick in Barcelona's win over Celtic.

With no goals in the Champions League and only two in eight games before tonight, Neymar was in need of a goal or two. He ended up doing better than that and hit three with a superb performance in Barcelona's 6-1 thrashing of Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday.

- Report: Barcelona 6-1 Celtic

Criticism for his lack of goals had already begun, but Neymar did not look worried as he grabbed his first hat-trick in Europe to cap an outstanding all round display to help Barca confirm first position in Group H.

More than the result and the play of individuals, it will be the overall team performance that will delight the increasingly irksome coach Gerardo Martino. He had admitted beforehand that his side's football had not been up to the required standards in recent back-to-back defeats in Amsterdam and Bilbao.

Afterward, he was asked mostly about Neymar's performance, to which he replied: "We all agree about how good he is; the capacity to play for the team and the work he does to win the ball back is what amazes me most; it's not normal for a player like him to do such things."

Neymar himself later told the press in a mixture of garbled Portuguese with some hints of Spanish that the performance "would give his side confidence to face the next few games".

The players obviously felt the increased tension brought on by those defeats and had a point to prove. Barca quickly went about the business of dismissing the recent criticism straight from kick-off and it was no surprise when Gerard Pique popped up in the Celtic box after only seven minutes to open the scoring after Alexis Sanchez had found the space to shoot in the box.

That was Pique's eighth goal in 60 Champions League games, not a bad return for a centre-half, but it was how far forward he was so early in the game that was an indication of how confidently Barca had begun the game.

To reach those high standards, Martino had wanted to see more controlled passing from his side and that is what he got. The best example came with the third goal and Neymar's first of the evening.

Although it was a simple tap-in for the Brazilian, it came from a build-up that included 26 consecutive passes from his team, mainly down the right hand channel with Xavi Hernandez as always prominent, before Martin Montoya found space on the right to feed Neymar.

Before that, Neymar had already made a great driving, diagonal run across the Celtic area to free himself from Efe Ambrose before he pulled back a sensational pass to supply Pedro with an easy finish for the second.

Neymar's second was the best of the bunch, straight out of a video game. It came just after the break with his side already 3-0 up, but that does not disguise its quality. It started with his own back flick from a Sergio Roberto pass into the path of Xavi, who played in the still-moving Brazilian with one touch. Neymar then proceeded to glide past a defender with a great first touch before slamming a left footed shot home from fifteen yards.

Nine minutes later he had his third and Ambrose was the victim again. This time Neymar managed to slip the ball through his legs on the run before banking in a shot off defender Adam Matthews that squeezed past Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Forster has quite a reputation in Barcelona after three previous games in little over a year before tonight, so much so that his name has even been mentioned as a possible replacement for Victor Valdes, but there was little he could against a rampaging Barca side.

Neymar and Pedro then managed a huge mix-up as the Brazilian rounded Forster only to see him and Pedro get in each other's way and miss an open goal.

Then Cristian Tello came on for Sanchez, who was busy all evening without getting on the scoresheet, and immediately the youngster made it six with a deflected shot after more careful approach play.

At that stage with eighteen minutes remaining, Barca appeared to remember the friendship that has been built up between these two clubs and took the foot of the gas. Undoubtedly they could have scored more on the first occasion a Celtic side has ever shipped six goals in European competition.

In a strange final five minutes Celtic came to life and Georgios Samaras got one and should have had two or three, but it was way too late from the Scottish champions.

For Barca, it was a spectacular way to silence the critics. Now the Blaugrana move to the league on Saturday when a dangerous Villarreal side come to town. The "Yellow Submarine" will be more of a test than Celtic, but if the level of Barca's performance is this high it can only be another three points for the league leaders.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.