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Fàbregas helps Barcelona break Celtic resolve

Celtic FC 0-1 FC Barcelona
Cesc Fàbregas struck 14 minutes from time as the visitors edged to victory over a battling Celtic side undermined by Scott Brown's red card.

Fàbregas helps Barcelona break Celtic resolve
Fàbregas helps Barcelona break Celtic resolve ©UEFA.com

A Cesc Fàbregas goal 14 minutes from time earned FC Barcelona a 1-0 victory at ten-man Celtic FC in UEFA Champions League Group H.

In a game short on chances until a frantic final quarter, the midfielder headed in the winner from substitute Alexis Sánchez's cross to deny the hosts a point after Celtic had to play the last half-hour with ten men following captain Scott Brown's red card.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon sprung a surprise by starting Giorgios Samaras as a lone striker with Anthony Stokes just off him. In the fifth minute the two combined to create the first opening, Stokes playing in the Greek international whose shot was smothered by Víctor Valdés.

That early flurry apart, Barcelona soon settled into their familiar passing rhythm and the Scottish champions were forced onto the back foot as Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta attempted to thread passes through a packed and disciplined Celtic rearguard.

With Lionel Messi out injured the onus fell on Neymar to provide the creative spark for the visitors and on 23 minutes he almost unlocked the Celtic door. Picking up the ball in his own half the Brazil forward eluded three challenges and only the intervention of Kris Commons prevented Pedro Rodríguez getting a clear sight of goal.

With half-time approaching Neymar threatened again, getting on the end of a Daniel Alves cross to flick a shot with the outside of his boot which flashed past the post to the relief of Fraser Forster. The goalkeeper was called into action again just before the break when Xavi's free-kick bounced off his shoulder and away to safety.

The second half opened in the same vein, with Barcelona probing for opportunities while Celtic appeared content to soak up the pressure and hit on the counterattack. However, just before the hour Celtic's task was made all the more difficult when Brown was dismissed after tangling with Neymar. Lennon introduced James Forrest and Beram Kayal in an attempt to stem the tide. The changes almost paid dividends immediately as Forrest produced a fantastic save from Valdés with his first touch before Charlie Mulgrew headed just past the post from the ensuing corner.

However, Gerardo Martino's substitution was even more effective as Alexis latched onto a long ball before picking out Fàbregas who nodded past Forster to give Barcelona the win. But for Foster's brilliance the damage could have increased in the closing stages but Barcelona will be content with gaining a measure of revenge for last year's defeat in Glasgow's east end.

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