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martedì 23 ottobre 2012

Jordi Alba 'the Hero' breaks Celtic hearts: 94th, 2-1

A Jordi Alba goal in the final minute of injury time sparked off celebrations at the Camp Nou. It was just reward for Barça against a Celtic side that only wanted to defend its early lead. “We know it won’t be easy against Celtic because we have already suffered at home against Spartak when they came close to winning,” left-back Alba said. Celtic were denied a famous draw in the Nou Camp last night with the last kick of the game. For 93 minutes it looked as though their English-born goalkeeper Fraser Forster would earn them a point but when Adriano crossed with Barcelona's last attack Jordi Alba scored from a yard out.

The goal made Barça hungrier than ever, but also got the Scots concentrating even more earnestly on keeping things as tight as physically possible at the back. It wasn’t pretty football, but it was remarkably effective, with Barça in almost total control of the ball but failing to produce much in the way of real chances in the first 45 minutes. It needed a little piece of magic, and that finally came a matter of seconds before the break. When Messi, Xavi and Iniesta combine to create an attacking move, you always suspect that something special might happen. And indeed it did. A pinpoint strike from Iniesta finally had Forster beaten. All square at half time. 

A first-half own goal from Javier Mascherano rewarded Neil Lennon's team for playing with calm intelligence and although Andrés Iniesta equalised on the stroke of half-time and David Villa hit the post in second-half added time, goalkeeper Fraser Forster appeared to have earned Celtic a valuable point. That was until Adriano arced in a perfect right-wing cross and Alba applied the finish.

The Celtic coach's animation was in stark contrast to the man alongside him on the touchline. Barcelona's Tito Vilanova was as passive as his team, who at that stage were playing none of their mesmerising football. Adriano tried his luck from distance but Forster, looking assured, got down to his near post to make the comfortable save. On 34 minutes there were even Olé cries from the Celtic fans as their team briefly kept possession in midfield with audacious ease. With a quarter of an hour to go, Vilanova sent on Tello and Villa for Pedro and Alexis. The Asturian was played as an out-and-out striker in search of a second goal, while Tello and Alba slotted in on the wings. It was a risky move, even though by now Celtic were clearly quite happy to settle for a draw. But Barça wanted more, and made the green-and-whites pay for their lack of ambition.

In the final minute, it looked like Villa had finally done it, but his shot struck the post. However, the best had yet to come. With the referee just seconds away from blowing time on an intense footballing spectacle, Jordi Alba pounced on a killer pass from Adriano. Of all people, the two full backs had combined to bring Barça a goal just when it looked like they had left it too late. The Camp Nou went wild. And had every right to do so. An extraordinarily tense evening had ended in the most dramatic of fashions. And the upshot of it all is that Barcelona maintain their one hundred per cent record and a five-point lead over Celtic, who stay second. A place in the last sixteen is already well in sight.

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