Verdict: Barcelona 0 City 1
Goals: Petrov 27 for City.
Richard Dunne lifted a trophy(!) as City triumphed in front of 94,000 Catalonians thanks to Martin Petrov and a sterling defensive display. Mark Hughes will have been delighted to have come through a fixture, which many deemed unnecessary, unscathed and with confidence boosted for the campaign ahead.
Fears over players getting crocked were allayed as we remembered Barcelona are the antithisis of cloggers. There wasn’t a tackle in the match to concern the City physio, even if Zabaleta did take exception to one hefty challenge.
Huhges made five changes from Saturday’s starting eleven with Robinho, Adebayor, Bridge and Richards all missing while Bellamy came on in the second half. Surprisingly, Nigel De Jong was on the bench in his civvies, which implied he may not have been fully fit.
The back four lined up with Dunne (left side) and Toure (right side) at centre back, while Onuoha and Zabaleta were both away from their preferred positions at right-back and left-back respectively.
With Weiss and Petrov on the flanks, Wright-Phillips was another out of his favoured position, playing in the middle with Barry and Ireland.
Carlos Tevez started as a lone front man and showed some good touches in a difficult role where he was often isolated and didn’t see a great deal of the ball.
City started sluggishly and barely got a touch. Yaya Toure was dominating midfield and if he ever wants to swap Barcelona for playing alongside his brother I don’t think Mark Hughes would be complaining.
Barca are able to dominate thanks to their slick passing and a focus on pressing the opposition in their own half. There’s always the chance that if you get past this, there can be space to exploit in the their half. That’s the theory; putting it into practice is somewhat harder as Manchester United found out, but after 27 minutes City did just this. A couple of passes saw the ball reach Ireland in the centre circle and he pierced the Barcelona back line with a perfectly weighted through ball. Petrov was away and slotted coolly past the Pinto in the Barca goal.
1-0 to City and Puyol departed soon afterwards, shaking his mane with disbelief. The goal knocked Barca from their rhythm while City were lifted and the remainder of the first half was a more even contest. Young Weiss in particular looked to have shaken off some early nerves and was proving a real handful.
At half-time Barca brought on Ibrahimovic and Messi, while we introduced Ben Haim for Toure. Incredibly the Barca star pair disappointed, despite both going close to scoring, while Ben Haim exceeded expectations. The Israeli made some excellent interceptions and showed good positional awareness, particularly in the latter stages when the heat was taking it’s toll on some of his colleagues.
If this was intended as an exercise in improving our defending of corners, then it was a resounding success. Shay Given and co came through with flying colours after facing what appeared to be a constant stream of balls into the box. Admittedly, this was one area where Barcelona could have learnt a thing or two from Stoke or “set piece” Sam Allardyce.
Given was fantastic throughout, giving a masterclass in judgement and decision making. The woodwork also came to City’s rescue on two occasions, with the seond resulting from a stunning strike by Messi in stoppage time. City immediately went down the other end and Bellamy nearly reprised his goalscoring exploits on this ground for Liverpool, with a shot that fizzed just wide of the post.
The referee, who had seemingly been waiting for Barcelona to equalise, then decided enough was enough and the Blues had secured a victory over the European champions. The watching Khaldoon Al Mubarak must have been delighted. City’s supporters certainly were, and the grin on Richard Dunne’s face when he went to lift the trophy showed what the players thought of it all.
“We are a young team, we are developing as a team and the opportunity to come to the European champions, compete with them, was vitally important.
“I wanted them to enjoy the experience and that’s why I gave most players the opportunities; for the young players, the opportunity of playing at the Nou Camp was a great experience for us.
“Barcelona have great depth, great young talent, but I thought Vladimir Weiss was the best young player out there tonight.”
“City are a team with big stars and we knew it would be difficult.
“They scored a goal and almost scored another at the end, but we had our chances too and it was a good match.”
Two away wins on the bounce, now if we can just sort out the home form…