Neymar backed over Celtic red card
Gerardo Martino has praised his side's character in winning 1-0 at Celtic without Lionel Messi, and also Neymar's fortitude in standing up to some rough treatment during Tuesday evening's Champions League group game.
Barcelona were without the injured Lionel Messi for the game at Celtic Park, but dominated possession throughout -- although they only made the breakthrough after home captain Scott Brown was dismissed for kicking Barca's €60 million summer signing Neymar.
The Brazilian was the focus of some tough challenges from opponents all evening, with his reactions to fouls bringing derision from home fans and disapproval from manager Neil Lennon afterwards.
The Barca boss told reporters afterwards that he agreed with the decision of referee Stephane Lannoy, and praised Neymar's 'personality' in overcoming the close attention to play a key role in the game.
"Fans react like that," he said. "The sending off was correct. I did not see the incident, but I did see the reaction of my players. Neymar had enough personality to keep at it. I have no doubts about what he brings to the team. Players who can unbalance a game like he can are very necessary."
Martino said that even without their No. 10 Barca had controlled the game in their best performance of the season so far.
"It is impossible not to miss Messi, but we need to front up without him and play well," Martino said. "It was a pretty complete game because we were consistent for the 90 minutes, except that rebound which allowed them a shot from close range when Victor [Valdes] made a phenomenal save. We were not in difficulty and we had the ball. It was our best game of the season, for the opponent, the ground and the consistent 90 minutes. We were in control of the game at all times."
Martino claimed that the more direct tactical elements he was introducing into Barca's style had helped -- as seen in Cesc Fabregas' winning goal which came when the ball was moved quickly forward by Sergio Busquets to Neymar and then Alexis Sanchez.
"[Celtic] were well aware of what worked for them last year," he said. "We kept possession when we had to, we were vertical at the right moments. But we could not get into their area until Cesc's goal arrived."
Neymar himself said that Brown had definitely stepped on him during the red card incident, and some of Celtic's other challenges had overstepped the mark too.
"Yes, he stepped on me," Neymar said. "Each person can interpret it as they want. You cannot always avoid the kicks. Everyone should stay within the limits of football, and not try and do damage to anyone."
The former Santos player had a more central role in the team with Messi absent, but denied he had been a 'leader' during the game.
"It was an important victory," he said. "I am happy to have taking part in the move which lead to the goal. I am adapting better to the team's style game by game."
Wednesday's Mundo Deportivo pointed out that, in ten official games with Barca, challenges on Neymar have led to eight cards, seven yellows and now Brown's red.