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UEFA Champions League Group G wrap: Barca edge dogged Celtic

Jordi Alba’s injury-time winner saw Barcelona snatch a 2-1 win at home to a stubborn Celtic in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Scottish champions took a surprise lead in the first half at Camp Nou, with Javier Mascherano heading past his own goalkeeper after a superb delivery from Charlie Mulgrew wide on the right.

The hosts levelled the scores shortly before the break, when Andres Iniesta stabbed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net following a neat exchange between Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi.

With the game nearing its conclusion, Alba broke Celtic hearts by prodding home at the far post after beating his man for pace on the outside and latching onto Adriano delivery.

The hosts should have taken the lead as early as the second minute when a cute pass in behind the back four from Lionel Messi saw Alexis Sanchez miss a one-on-one chance, dinking his effort just past the left-hand post.

It was the unfancied visitors who took a shock lead in the 17th minute, though, with Mulgrew’s viciously whipped free-kick from the right wing proving too difficult to defend.

Mascherano was the man left red-faced after nodding into his own net under pressure from Georgios Samaras.

After finding themselves frustrated for the majority of the half, struggling to break down a stubborn Celtic defence, Barcelona drew level right on the stroke of half-time through Iniesta, who latched on to a magnificent through-ball from Xavi to poke past the onrushing Fraser Forster.

It was Celtic who managed to create the first chance of the second half, though, when Barcelona’s weakness from set-pieces was almost exposed again, with the impressive Victor Wanyama planting his header just wide after another superb Mulgrew centre.

With Barcelona pushing for the lead, it took a world-class save from Forster to deny Messi, who looked odds on to tap home from what looked like an offside position just six yards out after some good work by both Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez.

Moments later, it took another save of magnificent quality to keep out a Messi header from point-blank range after Forster launched himself at a delicately clipped ball over the top from Xavi as the game headed into the final ten minutes.

With the clock ticking down David Villa, on as a substitute, struck the post with an angled drive from within the box and with Forster well beaten.

But Celtic resolve was broken in the 93rd minute when Adriano’s cross into the far post saw Alba steal in ahead of his marker and poke home to hand Barcelona all three points on a night where the visitors had defended vigorously.

Earlier, Spartak Moscow bagged their first points of the group stage with a 2-1 win at home to Portuguese side Benfica.

Rafael Carioca opened the scoring for the hosts just three minutes into the match at the Luzhniki Stadium, with Lima levelling for the visitors on 33 minutes.

A Jardel own-goal with two minutes left in the first half restored Spartak’s lead and proved to be the deciding goal, with neither team able to find the back of the net in the second 45 minutes.

Barcelona are firmly in charge of Group G on nine points from three matches played, five points ahead of second-placed Celtic.

Spartak occupy third place on three points, with Benfica bringing up the rear on one point.





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Tue 23 Oct, 2012
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