SportSoccer

Rodgers encouraged as Barca beat Celtic in Dublin

Rodgers reunited with Luis Suarez at the Aviva
Rodgers reunited with Luis Suarez at the Aviva

Celtic were out-gunned but not out-classed as they fell to a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in Dublin, as Lionel Messi enchanted a big crowd at the Aviva Stadium.

The Spanish giants named a strong starting XI that included superstar frontmen Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

And while the Parkhead outfit were undone by strikes from Arda Turan and Munir El Haddadi either side of Efe Ambrose's own goal, there was no humiliation for Brendan Rodgers' team.

They even briefly found themselves level midway through the first half when Leigh Griffiths gratefully snapped up a gift from the Barca defence.

But with the International Champions Cup knock-about now out of the way, Rodgers will turn his attention to the more serious business of seeing his side past Champions League qualifying opponents FC Astana,

They welcome the Kazakhs to Glasgow on Wednesday after securing a 1-1 draw last week but there is more bad news on the injury front for the Hoops manager after seeing Nir Bitton limp off early in the first half.

The Hoops' lengthy list of defensive casualties had already meant youngster Eoghan O'Connell and Ambrose were tasked with shackling the all-conquering Barca forward line.

But, as expected, the task proved too much as the Spanish champions eased themselves ahead inside 10 minutes, with Turan slamming the ball past Craig Gordon after Aleix Vidal made a fool of James Forrest out wide.

The Catalans were into their stride and Celtic had to graft just to prevent further damage.

But it was the Scots who pulled themselves level when Griffiths capitalised on Jose Antonio Martinez's blunder to prod the Hoops level after 29 minutes.

Luis Enrique's side were quickly back in command, however, thanks to Ambrose's latest blunder.

Having found the finger of blame pointing his way after his part in the defeat to Gibraltarian minnows Lincoln Red Imps earlier this month, the Nigerian was again left red faced as he turned a Denis Suarez cross into his own net.

Both Messi and Luis Suarez were then involved in Barca's third as Munir El Haddadi tapped home from close range just before the break.

There was relief for Rodgers when Messi failed to reappear for the second half and a raft of substitutions ensured the pace of the game dropped considerably.

Tom Rogic looked bright following his half-time introduction, as did Moussa Dembele, although the former Fulham striker's wait for a first Hoops goal goes on.

Afterwards, Rodgers said the workout had been worthwhile.

He told Sky Sports: "It's always a great education when you play against Barcelona. A lot of the elements we are looking to produce in our players in terms of that pressing element and possession is so impressive.

"But I thought my players were excellent, although there were times in the first half were we weren't high enough up in our pressing.

"They exploited the space with the top quality players they have.

"We were much more aggressive with out pressure in the second half and created more chances.

"We haven't had an easy game over pre-season - every one has been geared towards trying to qualify for the Champions League so this was a good exercise for us ahead of midweek.

"There is disappointment that we may have lost Nir Bitton. He has twisted his ankle and that prevented him from being able to move so well in the first half."