To the casual observer, Barcelona huffed and puffed and only just managed, without Lionel Messi, to blow Celtic’s house down last night.
Even when the Hoops were reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of their skipper, it took one of Barca’s few shots on target during the whole game to break the deadlock.
Without the two stunning late saves from Victor Valdes, Barca could have paid for their apparent ambivalence when it comes to taking shots without La Pulga Atomica around.
Despite the narrow score-line, goal-scorer Cesc Fabregas and manager Tata Martino were crowing after the game.
Although it’s true that Barca were back to their ball hogging tendencies in front of a packed and passionate Parkhead, it’s surely a stretch to suggest that struggling to put away 10 men was their best match so far this season.
But that was exactly the post-match line from the Barca camp in Scotland.
“It was one of the most complete games of the season and the victory is totally deserved,” Fabregas said.
Martino concurred with him.
“We had the possession and we circulated the ball quickly. The only thing we lacked was that we were unable to clearly break into their area,” said Martino.
“Because of the characteristics of the game, because it was a Champions League match, I agree with him [Cesc] that this has been our most complete performance of the season.”
Martino also reserved special praise for young defender Marc Bartra and Neymar.
“He played an impeccable match. He went up against their best player [Giorgios Samaras] and he did a good job,” he said of Bartra.
“We didn’t need a game like this to know how good he is,” he added about Neymar.
But the fact is that, for all the pre-game assertions that Barca are still a powerhouse without Messi, plucky Celtic almost proved that the Catalans are a shadow of their normal selves when the world’s best player is away.