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.
FC Barcelona have lifted the Audi Cup after a comfortable 2-0 victory against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Exciting midfielder Thiago grabbed both goals to cap another man of the match performance. It was a satisfying night all round as Barça carry an unbeaten record into the American leg of their preseason.
The first half saw Guardiola field his most experienced lineup so far this summer; Busquets, Iniesta, Villa, Keita, Valdés and Maxwell all figured against a young Bayern team. It was little surprise to see Barça take the initiative and force their opponents back. David Villa had the first opportunity, stinging Hans-Jörg Butt’s palms from long range. Soriano, playing at the centre of the front three, then fired over after good work by Maxwell down the left.
Bayern did manage to conjure some interesting opportunities on the break – Valdés had to be sharp to block a Petersen effort after a teasing cross by Japanese winger Usami. Later in the half Austrian international midfielder David Alaba found himself in a one-on-one situation with Valdes, but Barça’s keeper closed down the space well and made a crucial save.
Barcelona took the lead just before half time. Soriano pulled wide and clipped a perfect cross for Thiago, who met the ball with a guided header past Bayern’s keeper and into the right side of the goal from 10 yards.
There were slightly fewer changes from Guardiola at half time, as the manager opted instead to give a few more minutes to Thiago, Iniesta and Jonathan Dos Santos, who was making an unwonted appearance at right-back.
More replacements did take to the field as the second half wore on, with Gerard Piquè making his first appearance since the Champion League final in May. Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes called on a few more of his established stars, as Schweinsteiger, Tony Kroos, Mario Gómez and Thomas Müller all entered the fray.
The alterations did little to alter the dynamic of the match, with Barcelona controlling possession and Bayern launching some dangerous counter-attacks. The Bavarian side forced Pinto into action after 70 minutes, when defender Jeremy Boating crashed a long-range effort straight at Barça’s substitute ‘keeper.
Isaac Cuenca caught the eye, initiating a number of attacks from the right wing with a mix of stylish dribbling and cute angled passes. David Villa also looked in good shape,
But the match was settled by yet another moment of brilliance from Thiago. Gaining possession on the left side of the pitch, the young midfielder exchanged a quick-fire one-two with Ibrahim Afellay, collecting the ball just outside the area and curling a right-footed shot into the top corner. It was a fitting way to settle the match, and Guardiola’s men now head to the United States, where they’ll initially face defeated Champions League finalists Manchester United at FedEx Field in Washington.
FC Barcelona will play Bayern Munich in the final of the Audi Cup friendly tournament after a win on penalties following a 2-2 draw with Brazilian side Internacional. Guardiola’s men were subjected to a sterner test than in Croatia on Saturday and were under pressure for long periods in the second half. They went ahead twice but were pegged back, and needed spot-kicks to settle the match.
As with the friendly in Split, Barça’s starting lineup was a mix of established stars and talents from the B team. The team might have been a little unfamiliar, but the quality of football was typically accomplished; Barcelona were playing with a little more intensity than on Saturday, circulating the ball at speed and squeezing Internacional on the rare occasions when they lost possession.
The opening goal came on the 16th minute and was a thing of beauty. Standing over a free-kick mid-way inside the opposition half, Iniesta fired a short pass into Busquets who caressed the ball first-time to find Thiago inside the box. The young midfielder made no mistake, finishing a perfect training ground move.
Ibrahim Afellay almost doubled the score straightaway, but saw his far-post shot tipped onto the woodwork by impressive goalkeeper Muriel. The remainder of the first-half was an exhibition of calm possession from the Blaugrana side. Internacional held firm at the back, but were unable to register a single shot on Víctor Valdés’ goal.
The second half saw Internacional leap into instant action against a Barça team still finding its feet after a number of substitutions. Striker Damião forced a near-post save from Pinto, and this opportunity was followed by the Brazilians’ first real spell of pressure.
Thiago, typically effervescent in midfield, was at the centre of an isolated Barcelona move – riding three challenges before threading through David Villa, who was caught narrowly offside. Internacional replied straight away, as Damião breached a rickety Barça backline. His shot was saved well by Pinto, but right-back Nei was there to poke the ball home at the near post.
Guardiola’s charges then started to impose their game on the Brazilian side, and it was no surprise when they took the lead once more. Thiago was again at the heart, finding Jonathan dos Santos, who took the ball in his stride and guided the ball home from an inside-left position into the bottom right corner.
Internacional’s equaliser came late on and didn’t go down too well with the manager. Pinto carelessly surrendered possession and Damião’s attempt was headed away athletically for a corner by Abidal. The resulting set-play found Damião unchallenged to head the ball home and take the match to penalties.
Barcelona were almost flawless from 15 yards, with only Jeffrén spurning his spot kick. B team defender, Armando scored the crucial fifth penalty after two misses by Internacional, to take Barcelona through to the final on Wednesday evening. They will face Bayern Munich who triumphed against AC Milan in Tuesday’s late match.
FC Barcelona kicked-off preseason with a goalless draw against Croatian team Hadjuk Split on Saturday night. Guardiola called on a number of B stars, who performed ably alongside established first-teamers such as Andrés Iniesta, David Villa and Sergio Busquets. The game represented a useful workout for the players, as they take their first steps towards regaining peak-fitness.
Barcelona assumed control early on, retaining possession with relative ease against a Hajduk side that was happy to withdraw to the edge of its area. Split’s game-plan was to try to catch Barcelona on the break down the wings, but they had little joy early on against a young, energetic side that was quick to close down space to win back the ball. It was a pattern that would characterise the match.
David Villa went closest in the opening stages, lashing a swirling shot from outside the area, which beat Hajduk’s keeper but slammed against the post. This chance prompted the home team to embark on a couple of offensive forays; winger Marin Tomasov cut in from the right flank on the counter and found himself one-on-one with Valdés, but Barça’s keeper dealt easily with a tame near-post shot.
A few minutes later David Villa could only turn a near-post Dos Santos corner into the side-netting, before Afellay ducked inside from the left, beating a number of defenders but shooting straight at the keeper. Young midfielder Thiago was looking increasingly lively – his most remarkable contribution was to jink past two Split defenders before driving a shot straight at the ‘keeper
The second half saw a changed Barça XI, with Busquets, Iniesta and Abidal joined by Barcelona B players such as Jonathan Soriano and Isaac Cuenca.
Jeffrén spurned a couple of openings, while Iniesta and Soriano linked up for the best move of the match, but once again the Split keeper was equal to the task. Isaac Cuenca also went close late on, but the match finished 0-0.
As a fitness exercise it was a successful encounter for Guardiola, who was able to field 22 players and avoid any injuries. The coming weeks should see the return of more established stars, while new signings will also be added to the fold.
Among the new faces is Chilean forward Alexis Sánchez. The 22-year-old joined from Udinese for an initial €26m and will bolster Guardiola’s options both on the wings and through the middle. Alexis found his best form last season playing as a shadow striker, in a role not too far removed from Messi’s at Barcelona.
There have been departures in recent days as well. Bojan Krkic has joined Serie A side Roma for €12m, although Barcelona will have an option to buy back the player for a similar fee in two years time. Another deal with a buyback clause should see the promising central midfielder, Oriol Romeu join Chelsea in the coming days.
FC Barcelona has won the Champions League title after defeating Manchester United 3-1, in a game of near total dominance by the Blaugrana side. Lionel Messi and David Villa scored the winning goals, after Pedro’s opener was levelled by a Wayne Rooney strike on the half-hour mark.
After a slow first ten minutes, when Barça needed to find their feet after two and a half weeks of much-needed rest, Guardiola’s men exerted a stranglehold on the game that never loosened; always imaginative and assured in possession, and showing great togetherness and tactical nous to win the ball back early.
After a much-needed rest following the gruelling confrontations with Real Madrid, Barcelona were able to call on a near full-strength team for this, their most important match of the season. Abidal was fit to play at left-back, while Javier Mascherano filled in for Puyol, whose second half of the season has been plagued by niggling injury.
Manchester United started at a blistering tempo, pressing but without troubling the Barça defence. In fact, the first real opportunity fell to the Catalan side and proved to be the warning shot before a barrage of chances; Alves scuttled into space down the right for the first time, and found Pedro free in the area, but the Canarian winger skewed wide.
David Villa went close with an attempt from distance, then drew an important save at close range from Edwin van der Sar. Barcelona were suddenly looking confident, with Xavi, Messi and Iniesta interchanging with growing menace.
Some last-gasp defending by Vidic and Ferdinand only served to delay the inevitable – Pedro drifted into space on the counter-attack and was found by an inch-perfect Xavi pass, before finishing calmly at the near-post.
But the scores were level just minutes later, after Manchester United conjured their first real move of the match; Rooney combined with Giggs on the inside-right before lashing an unstoppable shot into the top left corner. Replays suggested that the veteran Welshman had strayed offside in the build up.
After this setback Guardiola will have been delighted by the way Barça went about their task at the start of the second period.
Yet more pressure culminated in a Messi goal, when the Argentine forward spotted the smallest of gaps between Vidic and Van der Sar from the edge of the area, driving the ball home.
This goal was followed by a spell of uninterrupted possession for the Blaugrana team, and Manchester United were visibly wilting, sapped by 70 minutes of chasing red and blue jerseys. It was David Villa who finally put them out of their misery, curling into the top corner from just outside the area after a Messi run.
All that was left was for Guardiola to lead his charges proudly up the Wembley steps, where Abidal was handed the captain’s armband and given the honour of lifting the Champions League, crowning a triumphant season with a memorable and touching gesture.
1-0 Pedro (min 27)
1-1 Rooney (min 34)
2-1 Messi (min 53)
3-1 Villa (min 69)
FC Barcelona added extra gloss to a memorable campaign with an impressive 3-1 victory at Málaga on Saturday evening. Pep Guardiola rested his established stars once again, offering yet another tantalising taste of Barcelona’s future, as Bojan, Afellay and Bartra all got on the scoresheet.
In amongst a handful of Barça B stars were Adriano and Abidal, enjoying vital game-time in the build-up to next Saturday’s big game at Wembley. Málaga, on the other hand, were without their usual strikeforce of Baptista and Rondón, while Argentine defender Demichelis was also missing for Los Boquerones.
The first half was a relatively quiet affair. Barcelona’s young midfield, composed of Andreu Fontàs, Sergi Roberto and Thiago Alcántara, took some time to find its feet before settling after about 20 minutes – Jeffrén got clear, but his effort was well saved by Caballero.
And just as Barcelona had started to assert control, Málaga took a surprise lead; a long, raking pass was cut back from the goal line by Juanmi into the path of Sebastián Fernández, whose shot squirmed beneath Pinto in the Barça goal.
Barcelona’s response was almost immediate. Bojan, captain for the day, showed maturity and guile as he bought a foul from Eliseu in the area, much to the protestations of Málaga’s Portuguese midfielder – and the home fans. Barça’s 20 year-old striker dispatched the penalty calmly to level the match just before the break.
As might be expected for a match of little consequence, the second 45 minutes was played out at a relatively low pace, but Barcelona continued to circulate the ball in a style fitting of the club, and continued to create chances in an unforgiving atmosphere.
Jeffrén almost scored a minute after the restart, skipping down the right flank only to angle his low effort into the side netting at the near post. When Barcelona did take the lead it was nothing short of spectacular.
Sergi Roberto drove the ball over to Ibrahim Afellay, who cut inside the defender onto his right-foot 30 yards from goal and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the bottom-right corner.
Dani Alves, Pedro Rodríguez and Javier Mascherano were all introduced, affording Barcelona a little more experience. And it was the diminutive Brazilian right-back who provided the assist for the third goal. His corner was met by young defender Marc Bartra with a towering leap, guiding a perfect header into the top right corner.
In the closing minutes of the match both sets of fans at La Rosaleda registered their appreciation for veteran goalkeeper Cesc Arnau, who was brought on just before full time to play make the final professional appearance of his career. Arnau came through at the ranks at Barcelona, serving as a backup for a number of years before heading for the Costa del Sol a decade ago.
Barcelona’s gaze now turns to Wembley, where Guardiola’s men can emulate Cruyff’s European Cup-winning Dream Team of 1992.
1-0, Seba (min 31)
1-1, Bojan (pen, min 44)
1-2, Afellay (min 76)
1-3, Bartra (min 84)
FC Barcelona lifted the Primera División trophy on Sunday night after a stalemate at home to strugglers Deportivo de La Coruña. Although it was a match of few chances there was no dampening the celebrations at the Camp Nou as Xavi Hernández and Carles Puyol accepted Barcelona’s 21st league title.
Guardiola turned to his fringe players and Barça B stars tonight, affording the household names a well-deserved rest after a tough domestic campaign – and a night or two of heavy partying during the week. Starting in an unfamiliar side were youngsters like Jonathan dos Santos, Marc Bartra, Thiago and Fontàs.
The Champions League final is also now less than two weeks away – so while there’s a need to maintain the health of the squad, Barcelona will also be aware of the need to keep momentum with their biggest match of the season still to come.
Deportivo are also a team embroiled in a relegation scrap, and had no intention of surrendering three vital points. This was to be no exhibition match for Guardiola’s second-string team.
The starting lineup was unusual, but the style and formation were very familiar, with the home team controlling possession and interchanging with all the fluency you’d expect from a Barcelona XI.
Afellay in particular caught the eye, playing in Messi’s central role and embarking on a number of fleet-footed runs. Jeffren also showed glimpses of his considerable dribbling skill, shuffling past two Deportivo defenders only to poke his shot into the side netting.
But for all their attacking verve the final pass and finish were lacking in the first period.
At the other end Deportivo, known for their pragmatism in recent years, created one opportunity early on, as Víctor Valdés produced an acrobatic save to stop a Lassad effort after juts two minutes.
It was to be the Galician side’s best chance of the half, as they set about containing their opponents, with the centre-half Aythami deployed as a temporary defensive midfielder.
The second half also saw few opportunities at either end. Deportivo grew increasingly anxious as news of the evening’s scorelines filtered through. A defeat would take now their Primera División destiny out of their hands. Lotina’s response was to bolster his side’s defence, withdrawing Lassad for the rugged Gaurdado.
Meanwhile Pep Guardiola introduced Maxwell and Dani Alves to add some attacking impetus on the flanks. The change almost reaped immediate reward when Bojan came within inches of a drilled Alves cross after a darting run by the Brazilian. Bojan’s persistence forced another chance a few minutes later, as he scrambled through the Deportivo backline only to see his finish deflected wide.
Despite Barcelona’s dominance, the best chance of the match fell at the feet of Depor striker Xisco in injury time, but Víctor Valdés was equal to the effort and notched yet another clean sheet in an immaculate campaign.
Despite not scoring, Barcelona’s fringe players can take great pride in dominating a top-flight match against experienced opposition.
FC Barcelona have won their 21st Primera División title after earning a 1-1 draw away at Levante on Wednesday night. It’s the third successive year that Guardiola’s side has finished top of the league. And there is now a growing consensus throughout the football world that this Barça team is one of the greatest ever to play the game.
The point was convenient for both sides, with Levante now close to securing their La Liga status for another season. And although the first half was relatively competitive the last 20 minutes of the game saw both teams more than happy to settle for a draw.
The final whistle was greeted with rapturous celebrations, as the entire Barça squad ran onto the pitch to revel in the moment and cap a season of near-total superiority, but one that was also full of drama. In truth, the title is testament to the sheer guts of a side that has negotiated an injury crisis in defence for much of the season. Despite losing a host of players at the back, this remarkable team has only lost two league matches this season, all the while playing with their trademark attacking flair.
Although there was an element of rotation tonight, Barcelona started with David Villa, Messi and Xavi, demonstrating a desire to get the title wrapped up as early as possible with the Champions League final looming large on the horizon.
Levante’s manager Luís García had made it clear before the match that he had no intention of attacking his visitors, and instead anticipated his team’s best opportunities coming from set pieces. So it was little surprise to see the Granotes getting men behind the ball and defending stubbornly. Captain and human monolith Sergio Ballesteros was doing a fine job marshalling his teammates and keeping defensive discipline.
Barcelona’s answer to these tactics was to move the ball patiently and wait for an opening to present itself rather than forcing the issue. As has often been the case this season, Barça eventually found a way through on the half-hour mark.
It was a goal that underlined the unique qualities of Guardiola’s Barça; Xavi spotted Seydou Keita making a run from a deep inside-left position and found the Malian midfielder with a perfect lofted forward pass. Keita barely had to break stride as he headed the ball into the top-left corner from just inside the area.
In response Levante made a concerted effort to put Barça’s defenders under pressure. Their equaliser came after Ecuadorian striker Caicedo took advantage of a mix up between Gerard Piqué and goalkeeper Víctor Valdés.
Lionel Messi came to fore in the second half, lighting up the pitch two outrageous dribbles, only to be denied firstly by the post, and then by the despairing lunge of a Levante defender.
For the final minutes of the match the Barcelona subs were all standing arm in arm, ready for the final whistle, and with it confirmation of another season of domestic domination.
FC Barcelona registered a simple win against Espanyol in the Barcelona derby tonight, easing to a 2-0 victory against their local rivals. It was a professional but low-key victory – the perfect antidote to the acrimony that engulfed the recent series of Clásicos.
After an uneventful start, Iniesta opened the scoring in the first half with a stylish run and finish, while Gerard Piqué made it 2-0 with a straightforward headed finish from a Xavi corner. Barça now just need one point from their remaining three games to secure a 21st Primera División title.
Starting with his best front six, Guardiola was able to call on a strong team against a side that has offered stiff resistance in recent seasons. At the back Fontàs filled in for Abidal and Adriano, while Mascherano’s impressive recent displays at centre half were rewarded with another start.
The opening half hour of the match was tight, with Espanyol quick to get players behind the ball and close off space. On their rare attacks they appeared to be targeting Fontàs at left back, but a few brief forays yielded little more than a dangerous set piece.
Osvaldo, els Banquiblaus’ most impressive player this season, was cutting an increasingly forlorn figure as the home side started to find their rhythm.
Iniesta made a statement of intent as he turned and ran at the Espanyol defence before finding room to curl a shot inside the far post. Kameni, the Cameroonian ‘keeper, was equal to the attempt on that occasion, but Barça’s stylish playmaker would find the net from a similar position a few minutes later.
This time Iniesta played a fortuitous one-two with Espanyol’s Galán, before cutting inside Amat at centre half and giving Kameni no chance. Barcelona were now in full flow, crafting a handful of chances via sublime one-touch combinations; Messi found David Villa after some delightful staccato passing, but the Asturian striker was unable to produce a finish worth of the move, guiding a close-range effort past the left post.
Barcelona had been forced to work hard for their first-half opportunities, but were handed their second goal on a platter at just after the break. Piqué was able to meet a Xavi corner unopposed and nod down to double his side’s lead.
This goal effectively killed the contest, and, after an exhausting month, Barça could be excused a couple of lapses of concentration. The slippery Osvaldo twice got the better of Piqué with the score at 2-0, but Víctor Valdés showed quick reactions on both occasions to preserve his side’s clean sheet.
Éric Abidal was then given the opportunity to continue his remarkable rehabilitation, replacing Fontàs on the 70-minute mark. With Adriano still absent the French defender will offer a much-needed option at left back, as Barcelona can now turn their attention to the final of the Champions League in Wembley at the end of the month.
1-0, Iniesta (min 29)
2-0, Piqué (min 47)
FC Barcelona are through to the final of the Champions League after gaining a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid with an assured second leg performance at the Camp Nou. Despite fielding a more attacking lineup than in previous Clásicos, Real Madrid were never able to put sustained pressure on what remains a relatively makeshift Barça defence.
After dominating the first half, it was the home side that took the lead when Pedro tucked the ball past Casillas to cap a fantastic team move. With the tie effectively sealed, Barcelona could afford a little carelessness, giving the ball away at the back, with Marcelo tapping home from an Ángel di María cutback.
The build up to this decisive second leg had been tempestuous in all senses of the word. After a week of blustery claim and counter-claim in the press, a real life thunderstorm broke out in the Barcelona skies, leaving plenty of surface water on the Camp Nou pitch.
Any fears that the conditions would hamper Barcelona’s passing game were quickly dispelled though, when a first-choice attacking six started zipping the ball around with characteristic style.
The visitors reduced to spectators once again. Madrid’s main contribution in the early exchanges was to ride their luck thanks to a series of rugged challenges by Ricardo Carvalho and Lassana Diarra.
When Lionel Messi drew a full-stretch save from Casillas on the 30-minute mark, Barça scented blood and created a flurry of opportunities; Villa, Pedro and Messi again all went close, with only some spectacular acrobatics by the Spain ‘keeper preventing Barcelona from extending their lead.
Perhaps revelling in the fortune of surviving this onslaught, there was renewed endeavour from the visitors after the break. Cristiano Ronaldo had his first opportunity to run at the Barcelona defence – when the Portuguese forward forced a challenge from Piqué, the ball broke for Gonzalo Higuain who curled the ball past Valdés.
Fortunately for Barcelona, referee Franck de Bleeckere had already blown up for a foul on Mascherano. Cristiano Ronaldo had rolled past Piqué onto the Argentine defender’s heels, preventing him from putting a challenge in on Higuain.
Barcelona responded almost instantly with a wonderful goal; the move started back with Víctor Valdés and culminated in a pinpoint pass by Iniesta through to Pedro Rodríguez. The winger showed no hesitation as he slotted into the bottom right corner to spark rapturous celebrations.
Now reassured by their massive advantage, Barça opted to slow the pace. But a moment of rare sloppiness at the back allowed di María to get in on goal. The Madrid winger smashed the ball off the post before directing the rebound to Marcelo who made no mistake. It was careless play by Barcelona, but would prove to be little more than a minor bump in the road.
There was still time for a heartwarming moment – Eric Abidal’s late entrance was greeted by huge cheers, as the French defender made his first appearance since recovering from a serious health scare.
1-0 Pedro (min 53)
1-1 Marcelo (min 68)