By: Mike Newell
In front of a completely sold out Camp Nou, FC Barcelona defeated AC Milan 3-1 on penalties after the game ended in a 1-1 draw to capture the Gamper Trophy. The crowd of 98,787 were entertained by an overpowering display by the home team as they out passed their Italian counterparts for the majority of the match.
The night was also a chance for the supporters to celebrate and properly send off Ronaldinho, who was with the club from 2003-2008. The crowd were treated to a video montage of some of his classic moments in the Barca shirt, and was given the biggest cheer of the night when he entered the pitch solo. He even took the squad photo with the Barca players at the behest of club captian Puyol.[picappgallerysingle id=”9606460″]
It took all of 5 minutes for Barca to create their first opportunity. After some sublime passing between Iniesta and Jeffren, Iniesta picked out new boy David Villa who beat his marker but blazed the shot 5 feet over the crossbar. It was an early signal of intent by Barca and proved the set the tone for the rest of the first half.
It was clear that both clubs were still in pre season form as there were some periods of less than fluid play in the first 20 minutes, especially for AC Milan who looked like a squad still trying to figure out how to play with each other. They lacked link up play between the midfield and the front pairing of Klass Jan Huntelaar and Marco Borriello. This would normally be provided in the form of Clerance Seedorf, but he was not in the starting 11.
The best chance of the first half was created the electric play of Pedro who after cleverly beating Bonera played in a cross to the streaking Zlatan Ibrahimović who scored on a stretching flick in. However the goal was disallowed after the linesmen incorrectly flagged the Swedish International offside. Ibra has been the focus of many transfer rumors over the past week. One of the rumored destinations is AC Milan, if this is the case AC Milan brass would have been impressed with what they saw. He easily linked up with strike partner David Villa time and time again. It looks like a potential fruitful partnership, if Ibra stays of course.
The rest of the first half dominated by Barcelona position, and half chances. Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri set the squad up to hit Barca on the counter and almost scored on a half chance for Borriello, but he could not get his shot on target just on half time.
Just a minute into the start of the second half, Barca opened the scoring after Adriano crossed the ball into the box and Villa, having moved into the middle after Ibrahimović was replaced at the half for Bojan, beat the keeper with a finely placed volley. This brought the crowd to it’s feet as it was Villa’s first goal with the club since joining from Valencia. After the goal it seemed that the flood gates would open and Barca would go on to route the Milan club, however Fillipo Inzaghi had other ideas.
After he was brought on in the 50th minute it did not take the mercurial Milan striker long to find the back of goal. With their only real chance in the game, another half time sub Seedorf sent in a magnificent long ball cross into the direction of Inzaghi, who incredibly let the ball run across his body and lashed the first time left footed volley past Pino in goal to equalize in the 66th minute. In a move that might not be understood in North American sports the pro Barca crowd applauded the goal before rallying their team.
From there the game lacked a bit of cutting edge even with the entrance of Leo Messi in the 67th minute. At the end of 90 minutes the game ended 1-1.
In penalties Messi, Bojan and Thiago scored for Barca while only defender Mario Yepes scored for the visitors.
With both squads starting their domestic season this coming weekend there are still some issues both sides need to iron out, for Milan the counter attacked needs to be a bit faster. The when the full 11 start playing the link up play will need to improve if they wish to stop bitter rivals Inter from winning their 6th title in a row. For Barcelona, the key will be getting the David Villa gelled quickly into the squad. Regardless of whether or not Ibrahimovic stays, a new partnership will need to be formed up front. If they can do this quickly then Real Madrid will have an extremely hard time taking the title from the hands of the blaugrana.