Lionel Messi scored a brace as Barcelona booked their place in the Champions League last 16 as group winners with a 2-0 victory over Celtic on Wednesday.
Messi and Luis Suarez returned to make for a reunion of MSN in Barca’s attack as Jordi Alba was fit enough to make his first start in over a month.
The Argentine attempted the game’s first shot when he met Neymar’s cutback but sent it wide. Ivan Rakitic then headed the No 11’s hanging cross inches wide, before what seemed to be a poor corner almost resulted in a first goal, Andre Gomes’ flick forcing Craig Gordon into a scramble to keep the ball out of his net.
Just after the midway point in the first half, however, Neymar scooped a delightful ball into the penalty area for Messi to volley past Gordon at his near post first time.
Celtic responded by testing Marc-Andre ter Stegen through Moussa Dembele, who turned Gerard Pique before blasting a shot that the goalkeeper had to parry prior to catching. Suarez, meanwhile, was perfectly found by a cross in the Scots’ penalty area, but his header was somehow pushed away by Gordon.
Just three minutes into the second half, Callum McGregor intercepted a careless Barca switchover near their own box, before taking on Alba and curling the ball into Ter Stegen’s gloves.
Celtic simply couldn’t afford to pass up such opportunities, and they were guilty of repeating that sin when Dembele missed a header from a yard out, the Barca defence having resembled the mannequin challenge.
It was left to the referee to award Barca a penalty, Emilio Izaguirre’s hands all over Suarez prior to bringing him down for a penalty, which Messi smashed home.
The No 10 then feinted past his marker with his first touch in the Celtic box, but his shot rolled the wrong side of Gordon’s far post.
With the result secure, matters turned to Barca’s bench as Marlon came on for his first-team debut. Neymar was soon substituted, although he was arguably lucky to avoid a red card after he deliberately tripped Mikael Lustig off the ball, before charging late into the Swede.
There was also time for one final Blaugrana chance, but Suarez could only find Gordon’s left-hand post after Messi had left the Celtic defence for dead in the hosts’ box and teed up his fellow South American.
Celtic 0-2 Barcelona
Messi 24, pen 55
Celtic: Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; Armstrong, Brown; McGregor (Roberts 72), Rogic (Bitton 64), Sinclair (Forrest 46); Dembele
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi, Pique (Marlon 72), Mascherano, Alba (Digne 66); Rakitic, Busquets, Gomes; Messi, Suarez, Neymar (Arda 77)
Referee: Orsato (ITA)