FC Barcelona celebrated their return home to the Camp Nou with a high scoring win against Roma in the Joan Gamper Trophy game. Barcelona never looking like allowing the Gamper Trophy leaving the Catalan capital, pressing relentlessly from start to finish, scoring three goals in the process. The scorers for Barcelona were Neymar, Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitić.
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The party at the Camp Nou started early, with 94,422 fans flocking to the stadium much earlier than usually. The broadcast started 30 minutes before the expected kickoff, at 9:30pm CET with a spectacular lightshow and beautiful fireworks which preceded the presentation of first the entire first team staff and then the players for the 2015-16 season. Players came out in a numerical order, all the way from one to twenty-five, with the exception of the four captain which were presented at the very end. Barça's two summer signings, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan were also presented, even though they have yet to be assigned a number for the new season. The captain, Andres Iniesta, and coach, Luis Enrique, greeted the fans with some select words, both saying it is great to be back and that they hope Barcelona have another great season.
With the pre-game presentations both teams had to go through warmups after the ceremony, which ran a bit longer then expected, pushing the kickoff time back 25 minutes, but when the game finally started, Barcelona for the first time had all players back from vacation, and Lucho wasted no time in putting his biggest threat on the pitch - the trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. New captain Javier Mascherano started in midfield alongside of Rakitić and Rafinha, while a back four of Dani Alves, Marc Bartra, Thomas Vermaelen and Jordi Alba played in front of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Roma, captained by former Barça player Seydou Keita, started the game from midfield, but it took Barcelona all of four seconds to take possession from their Italian counterparts. Immediately it was noticeable the Catalans had a jump in their step not often seen in their four previous friendly games. Barcelona was pressuring Roma player all over the pitch, even in Wojciech Szczęsny's penalty area, and as a result the hosts quickly started creating scoring chances. The first came in the third minute after a turnover on the Roma left side where Messi and Suarez combined, with Messi taking the shot from the edge, but it was right at the goalkeeper. Just seconds later Alves sent a gorgeous cross from the right side that first Messi was unable to head on target and then Neymar, completely open, sent it wide of the post.
Two minutes later, Alves and Messi played a beautiful one-two on the right with Messi again in space to take the shot, but this time he was excellently denied by Szczęsny. The rebound fell to a wide open Rafinha on the far post who powered it on target only to have the shot brilliantly blocked by a diving Roma defender. Barcelona's pressure was so intense that Roma couldn't get into Barcelona's half for the first eight minutes and take their first shot until the ninth when former La Masia graduate Iago Falque badly missed the target.
Barcelona occasionally dialed down the full-pitch press, only to quickly bring it back when Roma defenders were struggling to find an open man quickly. All Barcelona players were very active in the attacking third, always on the prowl to steal the ball away and launch a quick counter. Szczęsny was arguably the man of the match of the early minutes, making another great save in the 16th minute, this time denying Rakitić from range. Two minutes later, after yet another lovely short combination between numerous Barcelona players, Rakitić took another shot. This time his attempt was blocked, though the ball fell to Rafinha who had a wide open net to shoot at, but he powered the ball over the crossbar.
Roma struggled to cope with Barcelona's attacks and it was surprising how the game was still scoreless midway through the first half. But it wouldn't stay scoreless for much longer. In the 26th minute, Messi brilliantly found the onrushing Mathieu on the left side who beautifully squared the ball to Neymar. Neymar's first touch was key, as he immediately after touching the ball caught Szczęsny wrong-footed and the Brazilian was able to walk the ball into the net for the deserving lead.
Tensions started to brew around the 35th minute, after a very heated exchange between Messi and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, which saw both of them receive yellow cards. Roma players were clearly frustrated with the way the game was going as they struggled to calm down over the next few minutes, committing a few silly and late fouls along the way.
But Barcelona were left unfazed by those antics and surprisingly physical play for a friendly match. The Catalans simply continued with their attacking display which was rewarded in the 42nd minute. Suarez made it all happen on the right side with a lovely move past his marker and found Neymar in the middle. The Brazilian was in a tough spot to take the shot, but he was in a perfect position to pass the ball to the edge of the box to the waiting Messi, who fired the ball inside the near post and outside of the reach of Szczęsny to double Barcelona's lead. The hosts came close to adding to their lead just a minute later, but Rafinha's ranged shot missed the target by mere inches.
During the break Roma made numerous substitutions, including on goal where Morgan De Sanctis replaced Szczęsny. Barcelona, meanwhile, made only a solitary change, as Jordi Alba replaced Vermaelen. As a result, Mathieu moved to the heart of the defense.
Roma looked livelier in the early going of the second half, but Barcelona still looked more dangerous, especially now with more space at the back for the Catalans to exploit on the counter attack. The hosts were constantly buzzing around the Roma penalty area, but the tempo of the game dropped and Barcelona didn't create as many chances as they did in the first half. There were plenty of good plans and ideas, but the realizations of those plans was lacking.
At the one hour mark, Lucho made eight substitutions. Off were Mascherano, Rafinha, Messi, Neymar, Suarez, ter Stegen, Mathieu and Alves. On came Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Munir El Haddadi, Sandro Ramirez, Claudio Bravo, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
The only two holdovers from the starting lineup were now Bartra and Rakitić, and the latter was still unhappy with the way his shots didn't find the back of the net in the first half. The Croat was able to let go of those frustrations in the 66th minute with a howitzer from 30-yards out into De Sanctis's top right corner to increase Barcelona's lead to three-nil.
The atmosphere at the Camp Nou was fantastic throughout the game. Music was being played, Mexican waves were aplenty and there were many deserved ovations for numerous players, including opposing ones such as Keita. But it wasn't all sunshine and roses for Barcelona as in the 75th minute Alba was forced off the pitch with an apparent hamstring injury. He was replaced by Alen Halilović.
Quite possibly playing his last game in a Barcelona shirt, Pedro was also very motivated to score one last time for the only club he has ever played for. He came close to achieving that goal in the 78th minute, but the Italian goalkeeper denied him.
The last minutes of the game were calm and largely uneventful. Halilović and Rakitić displayed some lovely touches on the right side, with the latter forcing De Sanctis into a great save. Barcelona were firmly in control of the game, even with numerous yet to be proven youngsters on the pitch for Catalans. Enrique used all of the players he brought to the Camp Nou, with the expectation of third choice goalkeeper Jordi Masip.
The final whistle was quick and after a largely unimpressive preseason Barcelona were able to end the preparation period with a big win to secure the Gamper.
Now, the real tests begin.
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