If there was ever an advocate for why stats mean nothing in a single football match, then this must be right up there with the best of those examples!
At present, it seems as though Tony Watt’s days in a Celtic shirt were miles away. Setting off on something of a ‘journeyman’ career upon officially leaving Celtic Park in 2014, the once-promising Scot has played in over four different divisions for more than seven clubs (both on a temporary and permanent basis).
But rewind the clock over ten years ago (gosh, that makes me feel old), and Tony Watt was one of the most prized possessions in Scottish football where, following a trial with Rangers and supposed move to Liverpool on the cards, he joined his boyhood club Celtic for an official fee just shy of £100,000. Scoring twice on his Scottish League debut was a sign that they’d made the right choice, but barely anybody expected anything of their upcoming EU foray.
Over the years, Celtic have had rather a chequered history on the European stage. While current times may lead you to believe that Rangers are ‘king of the hill’ up north, that responsibility largely fell on The Bhoys’ shoulders. By (often) winning that league, that meant they would qualify for the impending UEFA Champions League ties.
This is where, with the greatest of respect to their usual domestic competition, their ability would truly be tested against sides well above their pay grace. And so it came to be, that this plucky club from the United Kingdom would be pitched against one of the greatest club sides ever assembled. Forget that, one of the greatest individual squads to ever grace a football pitch! Talk about ‘bad luck’, ey? Wonder what they must’ve done in a past life.
Playing at home against Barcelona, there was always this sense that ‘the twelfth man’ was going to have some form of impact for Celtic. Especially when it would help to roar on their younger lads like Tony Watt. But when the precocious talent was placed on the bench before the game started, it looked like he wouldn’t get a shot to impress.
However, with the game surprisingly poised at 1-0 following a Georgios Samaras opener (which would eventually be cancelled out by an Andres Iniesta equaliser) – the latter, incidentally, a player who could’ve joined rivals Rangers on loan prior to this occasion if the football gods had intervened – Tony Watt was (even more) surprisingly called up from the bench in an attempt to influence proceedings in the home team’s favour.
Throughout the match, the visitors had a plethora of opportunities to put the game to bed, including a number of clear-cut chances missed by the aforementioned Iniesta. In fact, Celtic’s opener was somewhat contentious where, looking back, the chance should have been cleared by the retreating Javier Mascherano.
However, by the 80th minute, Celtic’s ‘counter-attack’ game-plan was in full swing, with balls being lofted high and long to the oncoming Tony Watt in an attempt to stretch the opposition back line. Such was their dedication to this case, that it seemed inevitable at least one ball would sneak through for a clear-cut chance of their own. On the 83rd, such an opportunity presented itself, for Watt to send the adoring Celtic fans into raptures.
It was a goal that brought an iconic team to their knees, one that every Celtic supporter worth their salt remembers like it was yesterday … and serves as a true example as to why we love football like we do. Absolutely spectacular.