Pep Reigns in Monaco

August 27, 2011

Pep Guardiola became the most successful coach in FC Barcelona’s illustrious history on Friday night, as his team lifted the UEFA Super Cup following a 2-0 victory against FC Porto. Messi opened the scoring just before half time, latching onto a careless backpass before rounding Helton and tucking the ball home, all in one fluid motion. Substitute Cesc Fàbregas completed the job in the 86th minute, trapping a lofted Messi pass before volleying home from close range.

Barça’s ongoing defensive injury problems saw Piqué and Puyol remain on the sidelines for this match, while Sergio Busquets took his place on the bench alongside Alexis Sánchez and Cesc Fàbregas. Already two matches into their domestic league season, it was the Portuguese side that looked the more dangerous in the opening minutes – Valdés pushed a Moutinho shot round the post, before Hulk drove a cross-cum-shot across the goal.

By the 20-minute mark Barça were more comfortable, and both Messi and Xavi came close. Indeed, the opening goal arrived at the end of a period of sustained pressure by Guardiola’s side. Presented with no options in midfield, Columbian Fred Guarin opted to pass back to his keeper, but failed to spot Messi strolling back from an offside position. With his first touch the Argentine star knocked the ball past the onrushing Helton, before producing a composed finished from a tight angle.

The second period began with Porto on top. Another Moutinho effort was deflected wide by Abidal, and this followed by a 35-yard Guarín piledriver, which forced an excellent save from Valdés.

As in the first half, Barcelona regained their composure before long, and might have extended their lead when Villa was released by Iniesta. The Asturian striker pulled in from the left, but scuffed his effort somewhat, and Helton gathered at the near post.

The entire match had been played with a real competitive spirit, which was underlined when Porto defender Rolando was issued a second yellow card after cynically hauling down Lionel Messi as Barça’s forward instigated a counter attack.

Barcelona continued to offer an attacking threat; Pedro was mere inches away from connecting with a fabulous Iniesta pass, while Alexis Sánchez saw a curling effort dip just wide of the far post.

Fàbregas took to the field with just over ten minutes to go, and wasted no time in demonstrating the technique and intuitive passing that made him a transfer priority for almost three years. It was the Catalan midfielder who would add gloss to the result, trapping a looped Messi pass and volleying home from close range.

The red mist descended for Porto moments later, when Guarín capped a miserable night by lunging into a tackle on Macherano just before full time and getting his marching orders.

Barcelona have started the new season in formidable style, having lifted two prestigious trophies in just over a week. Next up is a Monday night match against Villareal, for what should be a challenging league curtain raiser.

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