Lechia Gdansk 2-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Stuart Franklin

A recap of Barcelona's third pre-season friendly, a somewhat underwhelming 2-2 draw with Polish side Lechia Gdansk at the PGE Arena Gdansk

FC Barcelona will be disappointed to have been held to a 2-2 draw against Lechia Gdansk in their third pre-season friendly, in a match that the Blaugrana were expected to win with ease. However, compared to the other two friendlies, this was probably the most productive of the three; Barça were given a real work-out by a disciplined and hard-working Lechia Gdansk side, who twice took the lead in front of a bumper home crowd. Sergi Roberto was impressive once again, and even got himself onto the scoresheet, along with Lionel Messi who was far from his best. Watching on from Barcelona, new coach Gerardo Martino will have been intrigued by Neymar’s late cameo – his debut – and now knows that there is much work ahead before the start of the season.

Lechia Gdansk

Barcelona

Possession

40%

60%

Total Shots

7

12

Shots on Target

2

4

Fouls

25

6

Offsides

3

2

Yellow Cards

3

0

Red Cards

0

0

Jordi Roura made one change to the team that defeated Valerenga 7-0 on Saturday, although unfortunately that change did not involve Neymar, who had to settle for a place on the bench; instead Javier Mascherano dropped out of the starting XI with Sergi Gomez his replacement. In fact, Mascherano had dropped out of the squad altogether, electing to stay in Barcelona with Barça’s Spanish internationals (and Dani Alves) to train with new coach Gerardo Martino.

Perhaps playing a second game in the space of a few days had taken its toll on the players after a summer of relaxation, as for whatever reason, Barcelona were a little slow out of the gates, struggling to impose themselves against Lechia Gdansk. The hosts could take some credit – they were disciplined, focused and working well as a unit – but really, Barcelona only had themselves to blame for a poor start.

Whether Barça were misplacing short passes, losing out in the air or simply missing an interception, the Blaugrana just didn’t seem focused; epitomised by Marc Bartra’s early lapse in concentration which led to a Lechia corner. Whether Bartra was trying to play the ball back to Jose Manuel Pinto, or to his central defensive partner Sergi Gomez remains to be seen – either way he missed his target, and Gdansk made him pay for that mistake, taking the lead with less than a quarter of an hour on the clock.

And what a simple goal it was; all it took was one aerial ball, delivered at the right pace and the right height to cause havoc in the Barça defense. No-one could clear the corner or even contest with Lechia captain Jaroslaw Bieniuk, who powered home a header to send the home crowd delirious with joy. Against all the odds, Lechia Gdansk had taken the lead against FC Barcelona.

How would Barcelona respond? They fell behind earlier in pre-season to Bayern Munich – and failed to even register a shot on target in response – surely they would fare a little better against such "inferior" opposition?

However, if Barcelona were to muster a comeback, they would have to do so without Cristian Tello, who left the action after 22 minutes, clutching at the back of his leg. Hopefully the substitution was just a precaution, and Tello will not be sidelined for any great deal of time; although his injury did give us a chance to see a little more from Joan Roman, who of course scored Barça’s seventh on Saturday against Valerenga. Would Roman be able to inspire a lacklustre Barcelona attack?

Maybe not directly, but within a few minutes of taking the field, Roman was celebrating a Barcelona equaliser as Sergi Roberto tied the score on 26 minutes. Created by the hard-work of Martin Montoya, who surged down the right-flank and sent in an excellent cross from the byline, Roberto displayed great determination to reach Montoya’s dangerous cross, sliding the ball into the back of the net.

Now back on level terms, one might have thought that the Blaugrana could press on in search of a second and take control of this match; but Lechia were not going to go down without a fight. Even after conceding a difficult equaliser, Gdansk kept their shape, kept their discipline and most importantly, kept their belief – their belief that they could shock their illustrious visitors.

Barcelona did create a couple of chances – but nothing clear-cut. Jonathan dos Santos came close with yet another "sliding" effort, this time connecting with a cross from the opposite flank and Joan Roman, while the first-half literally ended with a chance for Lionel Messi, who forced an excellent save from Bak, the Lechia goalkeeper, with his swerving free-kick.

In spite of the possession, and in spite of the "chances", Barcelona entered the half-time break tied with mid-table Lechia Gdansk.

Jordi Roura made just one change at the interval, replacing Jose Manuel Pinto with Oier Olazábal, which meant that Culés would have to wait a little longer for a glimpse of Neymar. Rumours prior to the match suggested that the Brazilian would only feature for half-an-hour at the most – and would not feature alongside Lionel Messi, who was captaining the side.

However, while Messi was captain, he wasn’t really "leading" the side; he seemed uninterested and was allowing the Lechia defense to almost "mark" him out of the game. There was little movement; just beleaguered looks at the referee whenever he was dispossessed – hardly inspiring stuff from the Argentine, although worryingly, the rest of the team was playing in a similar manner.

Caught in possession by Piotr Grzelczak, Martin Montoya turned to the referee appealing for handball when he should have been tracking back to try and atone for his error. Did Grzelczak handle the ball? Maybe, but Montoya shouldn’t have put himself in that situation in the first place; and just as Gdansk made the most of their chances in the first-half, Grzelczak made Montoya pay for his mistake – finishing in some style at Oier’s near-post with an extraordinary effort from a incredibly tight angle. Once again, Lechia Gdansk were leading FC Barcelona.

This time round, Lechia’s lead was short-lived as within minutes Lionel Messi converted from close-range to tie the teams at two goals apiece.

Once again, Sergi Roberto was in the thick of the action, creating space for his counterparts with another impressive dribble, although this time Jonathan dos Santos was the benefactor; although the Mexican passed up the opportunity to shoot, instead opting to work the ball out wide to Alexis Sánchez. The Chilean may not be the greatest goal-scorer, but he is selfless, and again demonstrated his creative streak to find Lionel Messi, who of course made no mistake with the finish from close-range.

Just as Barcelona looked to build some momentum, Roura made seven more changes; on came Kiko Femenia, Carles Planas, Frank Bagnack, Patric, Sergi Samper, Ilie and Javi Espinosa, as only Messi and Sánchez (from the 11 starters) remained on the field. And before long, Messi and Sánchez left the field too, as first Messi departed for Jean-Marie Dongou before finally, with 12 minutes left to play at the PGE Arena, Neymar made his debut, replacing Alexis Sánchez in the Barça attack.

Would the Brazilian be able to mark his first appearance in a blaugrana jersey with a goal? Or even a shot on goal? Of course Neymar would have loved to score, but whenever he touched the ball he was greeted by a Lechia player or two, and usually at least one player was hacking at his heels. Within ten minutes, Neymar had drawn three fouls; and as a result, was probably wishing he had stayed in Barcelona. Still, now the debut is out of the way, Neymar and indeed Barcelona can look to the future; starting with the Joan Gamper Trophy against Santos this Friday.

Until then, Visca el Barça!

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