La Liga champions Football Club Barcelona finished the league campaign today with a 1-3 win at Malaga. The three points give us a total of 96 points, just three points short of last season’s record-breaking total. Of course the fact that we won the league meant that Pep Guardiola could afford to rest most of the team that will play in next Saturday’s Champions League Final with Man United at Wembley. Today’s game was mainly to check on the fitness of players such as Abidal and Adriano, and to give our reserve forwards another run-out to have them as sharp as possible for next week, but bit was also a chance for the youngsters to shine and it was particularly pleasing to see a good game from Sergio Roberto who looks to be one of our brightest prospects for the future.
With so many regulars missing it was normalñ that we took time to click as Malaga had the better of the opening exchanges. However, even without our main stars the style of the team remains the same and we still try to pass our way out from the back. With Malaga pressing up on us we had a few dodgy moments at the back and we were fortunate that Malaga’s forwards were not on form. After about 20 minutes we began to look more in control as began to win free kicks in dangerous positions. our best effort from one of these came from Jeffren with a wicked left-foot drive that Malaga’s keeper Willy touched over.
However, we fell behind after 31 minutes. A long ball found Maresca on the left and Bartra failed to cut out the pass inside to Seba who drove past Pinto. I have to admit I thought this was heading for a defeat, but then just before half-time Bojan received a pass from Thiago and he went down under a clumsy challenge from Eliseu. Bojan got up and sent Willy the wrong way from 12 yards.
The second half took a while to get going. Malaga had the first decent chance when Maresca headed wide, then in the 67th minute Afellay was sent clear but his finisah went straight at Willy. Afellay made up for this a few minutes later, receiving the ball on the left he cut in and sent a powerful low shot past Willy into the far corner. Bojan nearly added another in the 84th minute but Willy stretched excellently to save. From the resulting corner Bartra rose unchallenged to send a firm header inside the near post from ten yards out.
It was great to win with such an experimental lineup the most important thing was the fitness of the players. It is a miracle that Eric Abidal is back playing but he isn’t quite at the excellent level he had before his surgery. Today he came through 70 minutes but we will have to wait and see whether Pep considers it wise to start him against United. The forwards are looking a bit sharper and it was good that both Bojan and Afellay got on the scoresheet. Jeffren was looking the most dangerous forward until he got injured and we will have to wait and see how he is for next week.
Our youngsters again showed we have plenty to look forward to in the future. Bartra and Fontas were reasonably sound at the back, Thiago showed more of his class, but it was Sergio Roberto who impressed most. He was close to a goal right at the end but substitute keeper Francesc Arnau saved. Arnau had come on as a chance to say goodbye to Malaga’s fans as he is retiring. I remember Arnau as a young keeper at Barça who got a chance before Pepe Reina and Victor Valdés, Arnau made his Barça debut in a 2-4 Champions League win over Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. Next Saturday we are back at Wembley as Guardiola and the boys continue to make history.
Barça: Pinto 6.5; Adriano 6.5 (Alves m59, 6.5), Bartra 6.5, Fontás 7, Abidal 6.5 (Pedro m72, 6); Thiago 7, S.Roberto 7.5, Maxwell 6.5; Jeffren 6.5 (Mascherano m67, 7), Bojan 6.5, Afellay 6.
Goals: m31 Seba 1-0, m43 Bojan (pen) 1-1, m76 Afellay 1-2, m84 Bartrá 1-3.
Barça yellow card: m74 Alves