Barcelona finished their preseason tour of the United States with a second straight victory, beating AC Milan 1-0 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas thanks to a sensational goal by Ansu Fati in the second half. Xavi Hernández had a very different approach from El Clásico and gave almost the entire available squad a chance to play significant minutes, looking to improve fitness and avoid injuries. In addition to the win the team played well on the night, and deservedly beat the Italian giants to end the tour on a high.
Xavi chose to begin the game without five of his usual starters and gave important minutes to the likes of Eric García, Fermín López, Ez Abde and Ferran Torres. Despite the many changes Barça made a bright start, moving the ball quickly and creating good chances with most of the attacks coming from the right wing, where Raphinha was full of energy and determined to prove a point now that he’s the undisputed starter in that role.
The Brazilian had his moments and created a few strong opportunities for himself and others, and most of the damage Barça did came on corners taken by Raphinha. Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres forced good saves out of Mike Maignan, and Jules Kounde came the closest to a goal when he hit the post in another set piece situation.
Milan mostly defended inside their own half but had some dangerous moments on the counter, and Barça keeper Iñaki Peña was called into serious work twice and made two very good saves against Tijjani Reijnders and Rafael Leão. Barça kept pressing until the end of the period but couldn’t find a goal, and the halftime whistle came to end a fun 45 minutes in Vegas.
At the break the Blaugrana were the better team and deserved to be in front, but we were still goalless headed into the second half.
Xavi made five changes at halftime, with three key starters on the pitch and a team closer to the one we’ll see to start the season. They maintained the momentum of the first half and continued the good passing sequences, and Frenkie De Jong and Oriol Romeu further developed their growing chemistry as a double pivot.
Alejandro Balde and Ansu Fati once again looked like a dynamic duo on the left wing, and it was a Balde assist followed by a spectacular Fati shot into the top corner that gave Barça a deserved lead 10 minutes into the period.
Milan didn’t try and chase the game and mostly allowed Barça to retain possession, and the Blaugrana almost doubled their lead with a header from Ronald Araujo after the Uruguayan had made a monster run all the way from inside his own area, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Xavi then decided to give 16-year-old Lamine Yamal a run in the final 20 minutes and the La Masia jewel once again offered glimpses of his remarkable talent, nearly scoring a brilliant goal with a curling effort from outside the box that went just wide.
Barça continued to create big chances with Balde and Fati wreaking all sorts of havoc on the left, but the Blaugrana couldn’t finish well enough to kill off the game going into the final 10 minutes.
There was still time for a few more debuts as summer signing Mika Faye and academy youngsters Álex Valle and Aleix Garrido got to play the final five minutes, but they didn’t have enough time to make a real impact and Barça simply ran out the clock to confirm the victory.
This one certainly lacked the intensity of the Arsenal and Madrid matches but the main goal was to avoid injuries in the final game of the tour, and several players who are looking to prove themselves got a real chance to play big minutes against a quality team. The team as a whole played well and deserved the win, and a few individuals such as Romeu, Balde, Fati, De Jong and Yamal really stood out.
Barça now go back home for another week of training before the Joan Gamper Trophy against Tottenham Hotspur, the final preseason match on the calendar. The real thing starts soon, and the team looks in solid shape.
AC Milan: Maignan; Florenzi (Kalulu 64’), Thiaw (Kjaer 73’), Tomori (Saelemakers 86’), Hernández (Bartesaghi 80’); Loftus-Cheek, Krunic (Pobega 73’), Reijnders; Pulisic (Romero 73’), Giroud (Colombo 73’), Leão
Barcelona: Peña; Araujo (Garrido 84’), Kounde (Dest 67’), Eric (Faye 84’), Alonso (Balde 46’ (Valle 84’)); Pedri (Roberto 46’), Romeu (Casadó 80’), Fermín (De Jong 46’); Raphinha (Yamal 67’), Ferran (Lewandowski 46’), Abde (Fati 46’)
Goal: Fati (55’)