Messi hails Barcelona's fighting spirit

February 21, 2008

MADRID, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The way Barcelona twice fought back from a goal down to win 3-2 at Celtic in the Champions League points the way forward for the team, said two-goal Lionel Messi.

The Argentina striker equalised in the first half and Thierry Henry levelled again in the second before Messi struck the winner with 11 minutes to go at Parkhead on Wednesday.

'Barcelona were always the better side even though the scores didn't reflect it,' Messi told reporters.

'Today we played the way we should always play and not even the bad luck of conceding two goals could stop us.'

Barca's fighting spirit has not always been so clear to see this season, with several limp performances giving arch-rivals Real Madrid the edge in the Primera Liga title race.

Although they have received widespread criticism in the media for their attitude, Barca have cut Real's lead to five points in recent weeks and have a King's Cup semi-final against Valencia next week.

'This result is important as it gives us a morale-boost for the upcoming commitments,' Messi said.

'The next few games are crucial as they will decide whether the season is going to be a success or not.'

Barca captain Carles Puyol backed Messi's view of the team's performance in Glasgow.

'The team played very well, including when we were behind. I think that it has been one of the best games of the season on our part,' said Puyol.

'Not only for the result, which is very good, but because the team were good in every department. One of the keys, in that sense, was the ability to react to them going in front.'

The Spain defender warned the tie against Celtic was not sewn up yet though, despite the fact Barca have won 15 of their 18 competitive matches at the Nou Camp this season, losing just once.

'We cannot think that everything is already done,' he said. 'We are still not in the quarter-finals, despite the 3-2 scoreline, although it is a great advantage for the Nou Camp.'

Puyol's defensive partner Gabriel Milito echoed those comments, saying: 'We have played a great game.

'I think that we have had one of the best games in recent times and in a very tough atmosphere. We have known how to react well.'