LAST NIGHT was arguably the most bittersweet experience of my over fifty years supporting Celtic. Having lived through the ecstasy of Lisbon, the agony of Milan and all points before, in between and after, it’s doubtful if anything has surpassed the mixed emotions of our remarkable 2-1 (going on 3-0) triumph over Barcelona.
It was agonising to watch Celtic’s heroically disciplined collective resistance to Barca’s bewildering, close-passing possession onslaught … glorious to behold our cavalier, determined efforts to take the game to them when the opportunity fleetingly arose … and climactic to rejoice in the devastating double breach of their spasmodically over-run, out-muscled, shell-shocked defence. What is more, but for some seriously “Nelsonian” officiating throughout in the face of flagrant Catalonian gamesmanship, culminating in the failure to penalise the blatant hauling down of Tony Watt when clean through again, it might have been more emphatic and we could’ve been spared the agonising closing minutes that ensued after Lionel Messi’s late counter in the seemingly endless time added on.
Yesterday, I called for Celtic to be brave and to play to win. They did not let me down and now stand on the threshold of last-16 qualification. Of course, there is still work to be done, stern challenges yet to be faced before that becomes glorious reality. But these thrilling young Celts are almost there.
And what about that stunning Tifo display as the teams took the field – surely the most inspirational in a string of such awesome cameos. The faces of the Barcelona players as they beheld the breathtaking spectacle clearly convinced them that they are not the only ones who are, “More than a Club”. Who knows what part that spectacle played in the subsequent unfolding of events?
Take a bow, Bhoys of the Green Brigade!