Spain hails Celtic’s big night

Celtic’s memorable Champions League victory over Barcelona on Wednesday received widespread acclaim in Spain.

After Barça had been beaten 2-1 inside a stadium which heaved with noise and emotion from start to finish, club captain Xavi Hernández was generous in his praise for the 60,000 fans who had helped celebrate the Scottish club’s 125th anniversary.

“This stadium is a marvel, the fans, the people, how they support their team,” Xavi told Spanish TV station Canal Plus after the game. “It is an example for every team.”

The Catalan club’s coach Tito Vilanova said he had never been involved in a game played in similar surroundings.

“The stadium was spectacular,” Vilanova said. “I have been lucky in my career to have been to lots of stadiums, but I have never seen anything like it. This was their 125th birthday and I wish them many more years.”

The media in Spain were also impressed. Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo, in an article headlined ‘Braveheart versus Barca’, praised the earth-moving support of the Celtic fans.

“Barça was the guest of honour for Celtic’s birthday party,” wrote Joan Poquí. “It is difficult to imagine that this team could lose games in this old and endearing stadium. The fans did not stop jumping, singing, shouting. It is no myth, the stadium, literally, shook.”

A feature in Madrid-based daily Marca claimed that Celtic’s “12th man” literally raised up their players.

“There is perhaps no greater home pitch advantage in all of football than a Celtic home match at Celtic Park,” claimed Arch Bell. “The Celtic Park faithful... standing on their feet, seemingly lifted Victor Wanyama above the Barcelona defence to smack Charlie Mulgrew’s corner past Víctor Valdés... When Tony Watt doubled the margin in the 83rd minute, the eruption on the east end of Glasgow could have registered on the Richter scale.”

The match report from Madrid-based AS also mentioned the laws of nature, and said that Vilanova had been punished for trying to defy them.

“Barcelona’s skill and possession was no use against Scottish height and speed,” Santi Giménez deduced.

“You can play very good football, but physics is physics and its laws are very strict. Barça have broken them before, but yesterday they crashed headlong into various basic principles and lost.”

Covering the match for Spanish TV, former Ireland striker Michael Robinson also alluded to the physical advantages which Celtic exploited when describing the leap of Wanyama (6’ 2”) over visiting defender Jordi Alba (5’ 6”) for the opening goal. “It was like taking candy from a baby,” Robinson said. “Barcelona just cannot defend that.”

Juan Cruz in AS was a bit less gracious, claiming Celtic’s machine-like power had crushed the Catalans’ more dainty artists. “Celtic are a type of steamroller put on the field to destroy any attempt by the opponent to raise the tone of the game,” wrote Cruz, a Barca fan and one of the country’s most respected cultural critics.

“Barça tried to play football in a way fitting for this competition. But Celtic, like bad luck, were remorseless.”

Joan Josep Pallás was calmer in Mundo Deportivo, praising Celtic keeper Fraser Forster, but remembering that Barca still topped Group G. “It was not Barça’s best game, but it was not one to make you tear up your ticket,” Pallás reasoned. “If we had to lose a game, it was better to lose this one.”

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