Neymar broke his Champions League duck in style on Wednesday, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-1 Barcelona win that saw the Catalan giants seal first place in Group H against bracket bottom-feeders Celtic.
The hosts made a quick start against their Scottish guests and quite nearly went in front after less than two minutes when Xavi attempted to pick out Neymar with a cross, but placed his delivery slightly over the Brazilian’s head.
The Catalans got their opening in the seventh minute after Efe Ambrose coughed up the ball in front of Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster, allowing Alexis Sanchez a clear shot and Gerard Pique an unchallenged attempt on the rebound that put his side in front.
Celtic’s riposte came in the 13th minute courtesy of Derk Boerrigter, although his cross from a promising bit of buildup was too heavy for striker Teemu Pukki to control in the goalmouth.
With six minutes remaining in the period, Barcelona doubled their lead through Pedro, who made no mistake after being set up nicely by Neymar. In the 44th minute, Neymar himself put an end to the match as a contest after tapping the ball into the open net after some lovely attacking play from Sanchez and Martin Montoya.
The Brazilian was only getting started, however, and had his second of the night just three minutes after the restart following a neat exchange with Xavi.
He had his hat-trick barely 10 minutes later.
Once again, Ambrose should have done better, as the 21-year-old put his shot into the back of the net off Adam Matthews after accepting the ball from countryman Adriano.
Adriano got another assist in the 72nd minute when he set up Christian Tello, who had come on for Sanchez.
In the dying moments, Georgios Samaras pulled one back for Celtic after nodding Charlie Mulgrew’s free-kick beyond the reach of Pinto.
Key Player Grades
|Barcelona Player Grades|
He was withdrawn to a standing ovation in the 81st minute, having recorded his first Barcelona hat-trick. The Brazil international also picked up an assist, touched the ball 87 times and completed 90 per cent of his passes against a Celtic side he must surely wish he could face every week.
Scott Brown: C
|Celtic Player Grades|
The Celtic captain completed an impressive 92 per cent of his passes against Barcelona, but he was also in the centre of a midfield that got cut through like butter and touched the ball just 35 times over the course of the match.
Next up for Barcelona is a Saturday match against Villarreal at Camp Nou. On December 17, they’ll welcome FC Cartagena in the Copa del Rey.
Celtic, meanwhile, will host both Edinburgh sides in the coming days—Hibernian on December 14 and Hearts on the 21st.
Statistics courtesy of Who Scored?