What an eventful weekend in the Irish capital. As soon as it was announced that Celtic would take on Barcelona at the Aviva, tickets were snapped up.
The International Champions Cup seemed like a great few away trips for fans, that was until it ended up lumped right in the middle of Celtic’s Champions League qualifiers. Taking on Barcelona the Saturday before arguably one of the club’s biggest games of the season on Wednesday night against Astana was never going to be ideal for Brendan Rodgers’ men.
But who would turn down such a glamorous tie? Particularly one that was to be held in Dublin. As flights of Celtic supporters began to invade the city from as early as Thursday locals knew this was to be a special weekend.
Many Irish too travelled the length of the country to get a glimpse of the stars who were to play in their own back garden for a change. Many football fans felt it was all about Messi being in town, but for those Celtic fans in town our sights were on Patrick Roberts.
Dublin was awash with green and white hoops on Saturday. There wasn’t an area in Temple Bar that didn’t have a tricolour hanging. There was a great buzz about the place, there were songs and of course plenty of alcohol.
The last time Celtic played in Dublin was when they took on Liverpool and I think it’s fair to say there was more red to be seen then green in the Aviva stadium, not this time though.
Although Barcelona had great representation inside the stadium it came nowhere close to the throngs of Celtic fans inside the ground.
Kick off approached and with the teamsheets announced we all knew the likes of Messi and Suarez were going to be in the starting 11 much to the delight of many of the younger hoops fans.
After just 11 minutes we were treated to a pretty spectacular finish into the top corner from Arda Turan which saw Barcelona go one up.
There is no debate to the contrary, Barcelona oozed class and from the first kick of the game they dominated possession. That said Celtic didn’t look like a side that were going to be shown up in this fixture.
Just before the hour mark, the crowd were awarded a goal from quite literally nowhere. A defensive mess gave the bhoys a chance to capitalise and they did that through none other than Leigh Griffiths. Hard to believe one of his easiest goals to date came against Barcelona.
Then as quick as Celtic had equalised they were again trailing. An own goal in the 31st minute from Efe Ambrose as he tried to clear a low cross which was never reaching any Barca player anyway.
There was booing to be heard around the Aviva Stadium, much of which was made out to be a whole lot worse when I went onto social media a few hours later. Was it booing for Ambrose or for the own goal? Both obviously, but seeing people who weren’t even in Dublin commenting on it as a “disgrace” was pretty funny.
Maybe I had a few drinks and it just didn’t seem as bad as it was being reported but it certainly wasn’t “toxic atmosphere” as some had suggested.
As we approached half time Barcelona went further in front with a decent finish from Munir. Barcelona were 3-1 up as the first half came to a close.
The second half saw much of the same with Celtic continuing to hold their own, although they were being outclassed. There were to be no goals in the second half, Barcelona made a number of changes that saw the household names of Messi and Suarez substituted but despite that they continued to be outstanding. Even their B team as some would call it were something else.
With the referee blowing the full-time whistle cheers rang out around the packed out Aviva. Celtic certainly weren’t embarrassed and they now go into Wednesday’s game full of confidence.
The supporters descended on the streets of the city to continue the celebrations as the focus turned to the Champions League qualifier against Astana at Celtic Park on Wednesday.
A tough enough first leg in Kazakstan saw the sides level with Celtic thankfully securing an away goal. There is no point in denying it, I’m not sure I’ve met anyone that is overly confident about the game on Wednesday, but I fully expect them to qualify.
When Ronny Delia left the club at the end of last season many supporters were pleased following his departure as we couldn’t risk another disaster in Europe.
Now Brendan Rodgers has been enlisted – a man with a wealth of experience – but still with a similar side to what Delia had, give or take a number of changes.
Only time will tell if Celtic can progress in the competition but I’m hoping to see a confident Celtic side on the night European football is a must for a club like Celtic and it will be one of the major selling points to new signings for Rodgers this season.
There may have been a party on the streets of Dublin at the weekend, but let’s hope we can continue it in Glasgow on Wednesday night!