As Rod Stewart sat in his seat wiping his tears away with his handkerchief, and as the other 60,000 fans around him were bellowing out “It’s a grand old team to play for”, the magnitude of what Celtic had just achieved was beginning to resonate throughout the footballing world.
It is no overstatement to suggest that last night was one of Celtic’s greatest in its 125 year history.
They have had many brilliant European nights over the past sixty years, from the sacred Lisbon Lions to heroic defeat in Seville nine years ago. Last night’s victory against what many have decided to be the greatest club side ever has certainly got to rival those nights of old.
Despite what the statistics may tell you, yesterday’s defeat was no fluke. True, Celtic had 16% possession and three shots on target, but a fortnight ago in the Nou Camp the Bhoys came close to shocking the Catalans by almost snatching a draw.
Jordi Alba’s late winner handed Barcelona the win and many assumed that the deflated Celtic were finished in this year’s competition.
Last night, however, they had the roar of Europe’s greatest atmosphere willing them on. Every tackle was met with raucous salute. Whenever Celtic made it into Barcelona’s half a sense of expectation filled Parkhead.
Every shot that the brilliant Fraser Forster saved, as well as every clearance made by Celtic’s back four, was celebrated like a goal.
That eighteen year old Tony Watt scored the crucial second goal for Celtic and handed his side a famous victory only adds to the mythical nature of the game. Watt was signed from lowly Airdrie United for £50,000.
He’d only been at Aidrie for two seasons before Celtic came calling. Only making his Champions League debut yesterday, he has immediately become part of Celtic folklore with his crucial goal last night.
His finish past Victor Valdes was superb. It was a chance that any striker could easily have fluffed given the occasion, but Watt finished with ease. It is hard to believe that only four years ago he was playing for his local boys’ side of the outskirts of Glasgow.
Celtic now sit in second place in the group, three points ahead of Benfica and four ahead of Spartak Moscow. They still have a lot of work to do to qualify for the knockout rounds. The away tie against Benfica is a crucial match for both sides.
Should Celtic avoid defeat in Estadio Da Luz, a tough ask for the majority of sides, then they would have one foot in the last sixteen. Even if they lose in Lisbon, they would simply have to avoid defeat to Moscow at Celtic Park in their last group game to qualify, assuming that Barca defeat Benfica in the Nou Camp.
If they reach the knockouts, anything could happen. It is too premature to discuss Celtic’s chances of lifting a second European Cup in May, but with their excellent home record in European competition, no side would relish the prospect of playing in front of 60,000fans at Celtic Park.
The Hoops' domestic form may have taken a hit in order to concentrate in Europe this season.
But when you record results like the one yesterday, you doubt Celtic fans are worrying too much about the SPL title at the moment.
image: © celticphotos