While Barcelona were going through their mini slump, Neymar had to endure quite a lot of criticism. Not for playing badly, but for simply not being Lionel Messi, as even his manager tried to take off the pressure but might have added instead, suggesting that he’s never going to be the kind of scorer the Argentine is. So the Brazilian decided to be himself, scoring a hat trick against poor Celtic in a 6-1 win.
If you remember, Celtic had a lot of problems with Neymar when the two teams met for the first time in Glasgow. Barcelona played with Lionel Messi as well, and Neymar took on a much more central role than usual. He didn’t score, but he was the most dangerous and best player on the pitch for Barcelona in a 1-0 win through Cesc Fabregas’ goal.
In the finishing act to the group stage, Neymar put on a show Barcelona fans have been waiting to see. He’s had some very good matches, including goals in key moments like the Clasico and the Super Coppa against Atletico Madrid. But Neymar needed a busting out moment – a match filled with dazzling dribbles, assists and of course more than one goal.
So he began with the assist to Pedro, making it 2-0, after side stepping poor Efe Ambrose, who was haunted by Neymar all night long, getting beat again and again by the forward, who kept changing positions, coming in from the left, right and middle, being very difficult to track. It helped that Celtic didn’t play their usual “park the bus” style, having gone down way too early through Gerard Pique’s opening goal.
The first of Neymar’s goal was a replica of the Pedro goal – a break by Martin Montoya from the right side, while Neymar comes first to follow through from the middle. But the second and third? His second goal, which made it 4-0, was a brilliant 1-2 exchange with Xavi, and Neymar added to the finish by scoring while sliding to the corner. The hat trick goal (5-0) was all Neymar, dribbling past Ambrose with some nice trickery in the box before scoring past a failing defender, unable to clear from the line.
Does this mean that now Neymar is going to score two goals every match, and that Barcelona should feel safe about their tiny lead at the top of the La Liga? No, but it should give Martino and idea about his front three – no need for Cesc Fabregas as a false nine. Play with Pedro, Sanchez and Neymar as a true 3-forward strike force, while the midfield consists of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets or some other combination, depending on fitness. Things don’t have to look so difficult every time, even with Messi out for a while longer.