Lionel Messi scored twice, including a late winner, as FC Barcelona came from behind in Glasgow to claim a 3-2 victory and a sizeable advantage in their first knockout round tie against Celtic FC.
Celtic threatened to maintain their superb home record in the UEFA Champions League as they took the lead through fine headed goals from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson, but a pair of strikes by Messi – now the competition's six-goal leading scorer – and a delightful Thierry Henry effort make Barcelona favourites to reach the quarter-finals at Camp Nou in a fortnight.
Having been handed a European debut by Gordon Strachan, Celtic's 19-year-old full-back Paul Caddis found himself up against Ronaldinho, who was making his first start since December. The Brazilian helped the visitors dictate the early tempo, although it was Henry who created the first opportunity on 13 minutes for Andrés Iniesta whose shot was saved by Artur Boruc. From the ensuing corner Caddis headed a goalbound Henry attempt off the line – settling nerves in the process.
Despite their initial subjugation, it was Celtic who struck first three minutes later. Scott McDonald appeared to have lost possession in the Barcelona box but the ball fell invitingly for Lee Naylor whose superb left-foot cross was headed in powerfully by Vennegoor of Hesselink. There was little time to enjoy the advantage – two minutes, in fact – as Messi drove at the Celtic defence from the right, exchanged passes with Deco before cleverly lifting the ball over the advancing Boruc, despite Naylor's sliding tackle.
Barça also looked the team more likely to score the third goal of the night but again it was Celtic who went ahead, seven minutes from half-time. Aiden McGeady, often inspirational but largely peripheral until this point, outstripped Iniesta and Carles Puyol on the left before firing across a high ball for Robson who somehow looped a header over Víctor Valdés from close to the penalty spot – not a bad way to mark your first appearance in the competition.
In contrast, Barcelona are a side full of players who know all about success in this competition – having triumphed in 2006 – and they levelled again in the 52nd minute. Gary Caldwell paid for a weak pass out of defence as Ronaldinho intercepted and supplied Henry, who drifted towards the Celtic area and curled a sumptuous right-foot shot from the corner of the box beyond Boruc. Strachan responded by introducing all three substitutes in a ten-minute spell yet it made little difference to the flow of the game which continued towards the Celtic goal.
Henry prodded just past the post following an intricate move involving Ronaldinho and Eric Abidal as Barcelona sensed their chance. They finally took it with eleven minutes to play: a Stephen McManus clearance hit Massimo Donati and fell for Messi, who dragged the ball back to create an opening before drilling it into the net. It might have been four had Boruc not subsequently denied Henry twice to keep his team in the tie – just.