FC Barcelona 0-0 Manchester United: Match Review

No pics from today (again), so here's some happy memories!

FC Barcelona stumbled to an unimpressive penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United in Gothenburg after 90 minutes of football failed to separate the two sides. Neither side created much in the way of clear-cut chances in what was a dull game, but Manchester United could have won it, ironically from the penalty spot, on the stroke of half-time, but Wayne Rooney’s effort was saved well by Victor Valdés. Pedro’s header was arguably the best chance of a poor second half before Jose Manuel Pinto performed heroics in the penalty shoot-out, forcing a miss from Nani, and saving Ashley Young’s attempt to gift Barcelona the "win". If this match taught us anything, it’s that much improvement is needed ahead of the season opener.

Barcelona

Manchester United

Possession

61%

39%

Total Shots

11

7

Shots on Target

4

2

Corners

4

4

Fouls

15

8

Offsides

4

1

Yellow Cards

1

2

Red Cards

0

0

There were a few surprises from the start as Tito Vilanova left both Xavi and Jordi Alba on the bench, and he also handed a start to Cristian Tello on the left-hand side, while on the Manchester United side of things, Sir Alex opted to leave summer signing Shinji Kagawa on the bench preferring Danny Welbeck in attack. Furthermore, there were no places on the bench for the recovering David Villa, or for Andreu Fontas.

Barcelona got the game underway, and immediately they settled into their usual possession style, working the ball around defense and through midfield. Indeed, it was long before the Blaugrana got their first shot on goal as Andrés Iniesta attempted to curl a shot past David De Gea, but could only fire straight at his compatriot. In fact, Iniesta was heavily involved in the next chance as well as he lifted a delightful little through ball over the United defense to find the run of Leo Messi, but De Gea had read the pass well and just did enough to put Messi off the finish.

Surprise starter Cristian Tello was seeing a lot of the ball as well, and he had the next chance of the match after being released on the left-hand side. With Antonio Valencia no-where to be seen, Tello took on Nemanja Vidic, dropping a shoulder to get past the Serbian before firing a shot into the side netting. It was great play from the young winger, right up until the finish anyway. For all their possession, Barcelona were creating little in the way of clear-cut chances, although it was still more than United who seemed happy to sit back and counter.

Ferguson’s side did manage a shot at around the 20 minute mark, with Paul Scholes raking the ball forward some 40 yards to Nani, who despite a loose control, was allowed to cut inside and fire a shot at goal. The winger may have missed, but it was lax defending from the Blaugrana. The rest of the half threatened to pass without so much as a single clear-cut chance, but out of no-where in first half injury time, the game jumped into life as Manchester United were awarded a penalty kick.

Now, whether or not you believe Nani dived or not doesn’t particularly matter – what on earth was Cristian Tello thinking when he decided to go to ground with a slide tackle in the area? It’s rare that we even see Puyol or Mascherano go down in the area, so when a winger does it, well, you’re looking for trouble. Nani probably did exaggerate the contact, if there was any, but Tello gave him the opportunity. Wayne Rooney stepped up, looking to give United the lead, and despite hitting the ball low and hard, Valdés managed to scamper across goal and make the save! Rooney did have a golden chance to redeem himself with the rebound, but made a horrible mess of the shot, slicing the ball wide of the post with the final kick of the half.

The half-time break saw each side make some changes, as Shinji Kagawa replaced Wayne Rooney in the most notable change for Manchester United, while Barcelona brought on Jose Manuel Pinto, Gerard Piqué, Xavi Hernández, Ibrahim Afellay and Pedro for Valdés, Puyol, Sergi Roberto, Messi and Tello respectively.

All those changes disrupted Barcelona’s rhythm, and Kagawa’s change especially looked to add a spark to United’s play. Within minutes of taking the field Kagawa forced Pinto into action, first with a curling left-footed shot, and then with a thumping near post effort after good work from the resulting corner. Barcelona were still struggling to create chances and get shots on goal, as Adriano fired over from the edge of the box before the offside flag brought another promising move to an abrupt end.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Not just one chance, but two chances for the Blaugrana! Alexis Sanchez had the first with a low shot which was saved well by David De Gea and a second which came just moments later as Pedro threw himself at a cross to trouble De Gea with an excellent header. But then, just as Barca were building a little momentum, Tito made some more changes. Martin Montoya replaced Dani Alves; Marc Bartra came on for Javier Mascherano; Alexis made way for Rafinha and Jordi Alba came on in place of Adriano to make his Barcelona debut.

More time passed without any chances, leading to yet another Barcelona sub as Ilie replaced Sergio Busquets, but still neither side could find a breakthrough, and just like Saturday, the two teams played a penalty shoot-out which was limited to just three penalties each. After his heroics against PSG and after Valdés’ save in the first half, I had Barcelona down as the favourites. They didn’t disappoint. Nani stepped up to take the first penalty and was greeted by Pinto, who was looking to play some mind games with the Portuguese winger. Nani stuttered during his run-up, before crashing his penalty off the bar – karma? Xavi made no mistake from the spot for the second game in succession to put the Blaugrana ahead before Ashley Young had his effort saved by the super-human penalty-saving machine we know as Pinto. Gerard Piqué therefore had the opportunity to "win" the game for Barca, and he coolly slotted home to give Barcelona a second penalty shoot-out win in four days. Next up is a trip to Bucharest to face Dinamo, in what will be the final friendly before the season opener against Real Sociedad. Visca el Barca!

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