Barcelona Slip to Narrow Friendly Defeat

August 1, 2011

FC Barcelona were beaten 2-1 by Manchester United in Washington on Saturday, as the English team gained a revenge of sorts for their Champions League final defeat in May. Both United goals came from counter attacks and fell either side of a spectacular long-range strike by young Barça star Thiago.

With every passing friendly, Pep Guardiola places more responsibility on his more experienced names, and on Saturday the manager picked a competitive side against the English champions. Abidal, Valdés, Keita, Busquets, Villa, Pedro Rodríguez and Iniesta all started. With the benefit of a fortnight’s extra preparation, Manchester United offered a little more intensity than Barcelona had encountered over the past week.

The first chance of the match fell to United after nine minutes, when Nani found space down the right flank and aimed a low cross into the area, which Rooney could only steer wide from six yards. Barcelona were struggling to hit their stride, and when they did enjoy some possession their attacks were dismantled by two banks of red shirts.

Manchester United’s opening goal came on the counter after a Barcelona move broke down deep in the opposition half; Danny Welbeck found Nani just onside, and the winger slotted the ball between Víctor Valdés’ legs.

In response, Iniesta fired over from 25 yards, and Afellay drilled a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, but, these moments aside, Barcelona were frustrated by a fit and disciplined United in the opening 45 minutes. There was yet more cause for concern before the break, when Afellay pulled up with a hamstring injury. The Dutchman now stands to miss the start of the season.

Guardiola elected to give the established first-team players at least an hour on the pitch, and they responded with a much-improved performance for the first half-hour of the second period. David Villa passed square to Iniesta, who let the ball run for Pedro Rodríguez just inside the box. The Canarian winger unleashed a curling strike that was saved at full stretch by David de Gea.

Manchester United were still a threat on the break, and Nani should have done better when the ball fell to him 10 yards from goal after a Welbeck shot was well saved by Valdés. This was seconds before Thiago netted Barça’s equaliser; Carmona played a ball infield from the left, and Thiago evaded one challenge before blasting a swerving long-range strike into the top right corner, leaving de Gea motionless in the United goal.

By the 70th minute the Barcelona team was made up mostly of B teamers, with players such as Balliu, Riverola and Espinosa taking to the field. There was a consequent lack of cohesion during the closing stages, and Manchester United took the lead following a moment of confusion in the Barça backline, with veteran striker Michael Owen stealing in to restore United’s advantage.

Next up for Barcelona is Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara, whom they’ll meet on August 3rd in Miami.

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