Champions League Group G wrap: Messi denies brave Spartak
By Football News
Champions League favorites Barcelona squeaked past a determined Spartak Moscow, coming from behind to seal a late 3-2 win in the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi was once again the difference for the Catalans, scoring twice in the last 18 minutes to reverse a 2-1 deficit and give his side an early lead atop the Group G standings.
Cristian Tello opened the scoring after 14 minutes, but the home side were pegged back just before the half-hour mark by an own goal from Dani Alves from a Spartak break.
Barca struggled to create many opportunities and were carved apart on the break once more in the second half as Romulo stunned the home crowd when he gave the visitors a shock lead in the 59th minute.
But Messi popped up with two close-range strikes in the 72nd and 80th minutes to put the Catalans back in the lead for good, though question marks remain after they were given a run for their money by the determined side from Russia.
Tello was handed a chance to impress with a start in the Barca front three, and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands with the opening goal after 14 minutes.
The 21-year-old beat his marker by cutting in from the left flank, and with Spartak's defence slow to react, he had time to pick his spot and drill low into the far corner.
Spartak drew level on 29 minutes as Emmanuel Emenike did the hard work down the right before squaring a pass which Alves diverted into his own net.
The visitors continually troubled Barca on the counter-attack and stormed into the lead in the 59th minute, just seconds after coming mightily close to conceding.
Messi was denied from close range by a great save from Andrey Dikan, and Ari led the charge down the left and teed up Aiden McGeady at the top of the box, with his clever pass allowing Romulo to skip past Adriano Correia and slot neatly under Victor Valdes.
But Barca would not be behind for long as Tello wriggled past two defenders on the left before cutting back to Messi, who tapped into an open net.
It was Messi who would once again find the winner, arriving at the far post to head home an Alexis Sanchez cross with authority to give the hosts the three points.
Celtic claimed a point on their return to the Champions League in a goalless draw with Benfica at Celtic Park.
Rodrigo had the best chance of the game for the visitors after a clever pass from Pablo Aimar, but was thwarted by Fraser Forster as the encounter finished 0-0.