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FC Barcelona 2-2 Paris Saint Germain: Match Review

With no pictures available from the game (yet) here's a pic of Barca with a different trophy!
With no pictures available from the game (yet) here's a pic of Barca with a different trophy!

Barcelona had to rely on Jose Manuel Pinto’s penalty-stopping heroics to win the Trophée de Paris after letting a two goal lead slip against Paris Saint Germain at the Parc des Princes. Rafinha Alcântara opened the scoring for the Blaugrana after just seven minutes with a well taken half volley before Lionel Messi doubled the advantage from the penalty spot on 51 minutes after a mistake from the referee. However, a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty – this one being legitimately awarded – and a late header from Zoumana Camara meant that the two teams were tied after 90 minutes. To save stamina and because it’s only pre-season, the two sides went straight to penalties, where Pinto excelled to save two of the three PSG spot kicks, securing a 4-1 PK win for Tito Vilanova’s side. It was for the most part a good performance from Barcelona, but those two lapses in concentration could have cost them dear.






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Despite having the likes of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas available, Tito Vilanova surprised us a little with his team selection. Victor Valdés was restored to the starting line-up, with Dani Alves, Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Carles Planas aead of him in defense. However, Sergio Busquets was accompanied by Rafinha and Sergi Roberto – something of a surprise given the strength on the bench. While the attack was largely as expected, with Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez and Ibrahim Afellay completing the XI.

PSG started well, pressing high up the field trying to force mistakes from the returning internationals, and for a couple of minutes it was working well. They were looking dangerous on the counter, with Nene sending in early crosses for Zlatan Ibrahimovic at every opportunity. However, it was Barcelona who broke the deadlock, somewhat against the run of play and it was one of the B team midfielders who got the goal. There was a hint of fortune about the goal, as Alexis Sanchez’ cross rebounded favourably off Rafinha, but there was nothing lucky about the finish as the Brazilian midfielder displayed great composure to slot the ball past Nicolas Douchez for his first goal with the senior team. Seven minutes in, Barcelona were 1-0 up on their hosts.

PSG did have a chance to equalise with a free-kick, and Zlatan looked the most likely candidate, but he relinquished responsibilities to Nene, who sent it straight into the Blaugrana wall. Other than that half-chance, Barcelona were keeping possession well and there were also beginning to create more chances with Lionel Messi at the forefront of it all. For his first attempt he looked to curl a left-footed effort into the far corner after cutting in from the right-hand side, but his shot was blocked for a corner. Then, for his second attempt he tried to catch Douchez off-guard with a snapshot, but could only fire straight at the French keeper. While his shooting was (momentarily) letting him down, his creativity, passing and vision were not.

Christophe Jallet had to be at his best to cut out a Messi through ball which would have been destined for Afellay’s darting run, and Messi was involved heavily just moments later in another good chance for the Blaugrana. Rafinha, not content with his goal was trying to create chances for his team-mates, and played a one-two with Messi. After receiving the return pass, Rafinha did well to keep his head up and find Alexis Sanchez on the right touchline. Alexis took on Maxwell, dropped a shoulder and fired in a low cross towars the front post, but Lionel Messi couldn’t convert to double the Barcelona lead.

PSG were defending well, but their attacking was still largely one-dimensional, heavily relying on their overlapping full-backs and crosses towards Ibrahimovic. However, after the half-hour mark they did begin to switch it up with a lobbed through ball over and between Puyol and Mascherano, but Valdés rushed from his line and did well to clear the danger before Lavezzi could pounce. That change in tactics though was short-lived, and with Alves heading clear the umpteenth back-post cross aimed towards Ibra, Barcelona had a chance to counter through Lionel Messi. Despite finding himself in an unfamiliar position down the left, Messi took on and stepped inside Alex before attempting to drive the ball high into the net at the near post, but couldn’t keep his effort down in what turned out to be the last meaningful moment of the half. All in all, a good 45 minutes.

Tito made four changes at the break, with Jose Manuel Pinto, Marc Bartra, Martin Montoya and Jonathan Dos Santos all taking to the field, with Valdés, Puyol, Planas and Busquets all making way. The half started slowly, but Barcelona did double their advantage, with the goal coming at roughly the same stage as the opener – and just like the first, there was a huge amount of luck involved in the goal.

The rain had been coming down relentlessly for some time, and when Alexis tried to turn inside the box he slipped, but the referee thought that Mamadou Sakho – who was closest to Sanchez – had swept the Chilean’s legs. It was an honest mistake, and despite Sakho’s protests the referee did not change his mind allowing Lionel Messi the chance to score his fourth goal in just two pre-season matches. Of course, Messi was never going to miss, sending substitute keeper Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way.

Now two goals down, PSG needed to react, and it didn’t take long for them to find a way back into the game, with their goal also coming from the penalty spot. Granted, it was good work from Ezequiel Lavezzi to draw the foul, but Martin Montoya really should have known better than to "jump in". Up stepped Zlatan Ibrahimovic, looking for a goal on his home debut, and he didn’t disappoint, firing his penalty low into the bottom right corner of Pinto’s goal.

Tito took this as an opportunity to make a few more subs, and as substitutes go, this quintuple change might just be one of the best ever. On came Xavi, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro, replacing Rafinha, Mascherano, Sergi Roberto, Alexis and Afellay. Not bad for the second string!

All those changes may have looked good on paper, but they did disrupt the flow of the game, especially from a Blaugrana point of view. PSG were growing in confidence as the minutes passed, enjoying good spells of possession and sustained periods of pressure on the Barca goal. However, they weren’t troubling Pinto’s goal, and an offside flag aside, Barca could have extended their lead through Cesc Fàbregas. Cristian Tello replaced Dani Alves with a little more than ten minutes to play as Barca looked to wind down the clock. PSG though had other ideas.

Peguy Luyindula forced a double save out of Pinto with two quick-fire shots aimed at the near post, and with that PSG won a corner, and how many times have we said this throughout the years – Barcelona simply couldn’t deal with the set piece. The ball was floated in, and Zoumana Camara found himself unmarked AND in acres of space so naturally, he headed it past Pinto to tie the score at 2-2.

Now, with a little over five minutes left to play, Barcelona again picked up the tempo. Pedro cut inside from the right and his left-footed shot was deflected behind for a corner, which Piqué headed over the bar. Cesc Fàbregas also let fly from long-range, but like Pedro, his shot was deflected behind for another corner which Barca frittered away to nothing. As the 90 minutes drew to a close with no winner, we went to penalties to decide the trophy.

Messi dispatched the first penalty, before Pinto – renowned for his penalty stopping prowess – saved Guillame Hoarau’s effort. Xavi made no mistake with Barca’s second penalty and Jose Pinto did magnificently to deny Gameiro for a second successive save. Cesc made it 3-0 with his penalty, before Armand gave the hosts a slight glimmer of hope. However, up stepped Gerard Piqué to win the game and he duly obliged. Next up is another prestige friendly, with Manchester United the opposition on Wednesday. Be sure to vote in our Community Player Ratings poll below, and of course, Visca el Barca!

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