Our preseason continued in Germany tonight with a penalty shoot-out win over the Brazilian team Internacional from Porto Alegre. This is all part of Bayern Munich’s summer tournament, the Audi Cup. We will now take part in tomorrow’s final against the winners of AC Milan and Bayern Munich. Having failed to score in Saturday’s match at Hajduk Split it was good to see us find the net tonight thanks to Thiago Alcantara and Johnathan dos Santos, though the performance of Juan Manuel Pinto whose mistakes twice let Internacional back in the game will cause some concern and will perhaps reopen the debate about his ability to cover for Valdés.
Despite beginning the game with only three players who started at Wembley we soon found a good rhythm. It really is very impressive to see how well the players understand their roles as it doesn’t seem to matter who plays we always have the key ingredients to Barça’s style: a fast movement of the ball and intense pressurizing when we lose the ball. Thiago and Iniesta had been the players most in form in Croatia and today the combined well in the first half to dominate midfield. the only problem was a slight lack of punch up front though Ibi Afellay forced three saves from their keeper, one of these a spoectacular fingertips save that turned the ball onto the post. At the back we looked very comfortable Marti Riverola who normally plays in midfield did a good job at right back while Busquets partnered Fontas in the middle though Busquets was forced into a yellow card when he could find no other was of stopping D’Alessandro just before half time. Our first half dominance was rewarded with a goal after just 14 minutes. Isaac Cuenca was fouled 35 yards out. Iniesta played the free kick hard and low to Busquets who touched it first time off to Thiago who controlled before slotting the ball home.
We did not change the entire team at half time but Villa, Pedro and Jeffren came on to give us more clout going forward, however, with Iniesta going off we did not connect so well with the front line. Pinto’s pantomime began in the 55th minute but to be fair the first mistake was not so serious, Fontas played the forward onside and Pinto was forced to rush out. he only succeeded in clearing as far as Nei who swept the ball back past Pinto and the desperate lunge of Balliu on the line.
Things were looking more complicated now. Busquets and Thiago came off to be replaced by Armando and Carlos Carmona and it was Carmona who five minutes later slipped a neat pass through to dos Santos who turned will before picking his spot inside the far post. However, with five minutes remaining Pinto decided to get up to more of his antics, this time trying to be too clever dribbling the ball out before gifting the ball straight to the forward. Eric Abidal performed heroics to clear the ball off the line but it was to no avail as Damioa scored fr9om the resulting corner. Fortunately for Pinto two internacional players blasted their penalties high and we scored through Villa, Dos Santos, Carmona and Armando though Jeffren’s weak pen was easily saved.
I’ve said before that I worry about Pinto as back-up to Valdés. True, he does make some excellent saves sometimes but I feel if Valdés ever has a long injury we are going to pay for it dearly.
Tonight’s team. Valdés (Pinto h/t), Riverola (Balliu h/t), Busquets (Armando m58), Fontas (Rosell m64), Maxwell (Abidal h/t); Thiago (Carmona m58), Keita (Javi Espinosa m64), Iniesta (Dos Santos h/t); Cuenca (Pedro h/t), Soriano (Villa h/t), Afellay (Jeffren h/t)..