A performance of thrilling skill and relentless invention gave FC Barcelona a big win against Celtic FC on a night graced by a superb Neymar hat-trick.
The Brazilian international, supported by strikes from Pedro Rodríguez, Gerard Piqué and Cristian Tello, scored for the first time in this competition and when he left the pitch shortly before the end, it was to a rapturous standing ovation. Celtic's fate seemed sealed within seven minutes, partly because that is how long it took for Piqué to break the deadlock but still more because it was crystal clear the Spanish champions, who wrapped up top spot in Group H, were in the zone.
Before the match Gerardo Martino said he was content with his team's progress in the UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey and Liga, which they lead. Where he sought improvement was in the level of play – he felt what the Spanish call 'chispa' (spark or buzz) was missing. Not tonight.
Throughout the game the Barcelona players treated this as if it were the final – attitude, work rate but also the quality of their football. And the excelsior work came, of course, from Barça's brilliant No11. In choosing how to compensate for the absent Lionel Messi and how to break his goal drought on this stage, Neymar decided it would have to be a hat-trick.
In truth, he could have had more. Pedro tried to take one off his toes, Fraser Forster twice did well to deny him – and the 21-year-old threw in an assist for good measure. That was when his pace took him away from Efe Ambrose and Pedro nipped in front of Mickael Lustig to make it 2-0 in the 40th minute.
Neymar opened his account thanks to a clever chip forward from Alexis Sánchez which Martín Montoya galloped onto and squared for the forward four minutes later. Until that point Sergio Busquets, giving his best display for months, had stood out. After the turnaround there was one name being chanted.
The moment of the match came when Xavi Hernández and Neymar exchanged passes and the Brazilian sprinted onto the return to rip open the defence and thump a left-footed shot past Forster. Nine minutes later came the treble as Neymar tricked Ambrose and drove in off Adam Matthews.
Virgil van Dijk, Celtic's best performer, and Forster combined to stem the flow but Tello, back from injury, added the sixth with a strike that deflected past the Englishman off his Dutch team-mate. Two minutes before the end Giorgios Samaras produced a small consolation with Celtic's only reply but that could not prevent the Scottish champions' heaviest-ever defeat in Europe.
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