After a defeat and a win Barça’s third preseason game ended in a 2-2 at Lechia Gdansk tonight. Twice poor defending led to Barça falling behind but goals from Sergi Roberto and Leo Messi levelled the scores. There was a fourteen minute debut for €57 million signing Neymar Jr but the Brazilian was unable to do much with the time.
The game was televised here in Barcelona without any commentary due to an industrial dispute. This meant it was almost impossible to know who was who on the Polish side but it did allow the viewer to enjoy the natural noise in the stadium and it was remarkable to see and hear a large contingent of Barça fans behind one of the goals. I don’t know how many Catalans are living or on holiday in Gdansk but one would presume that the group was made up mainly of Polish culés.
There was only one change to the team that started in Munich and in Oslo with Sergi Gomez coming in for the injured Mascherano. Barça failed to build on the good performance against Valerenga and there was little to note in the early minutes apart from one chance for Alexis Sanchez when Johnathan dos Santos sent in a corner from the left but the ball surprised the Chilean who hit his shot into the ground and the ball bounced over the bar.
Then in the 14th minute Barça went behind. Marc Bartrá, close to the touchline by the corner flag, sent a horrible back pass that flew across the goal and went out for a corner. From the kick from the right, centre back Bieniuk rose between Sergi Roberto and Adriano to power a header past Pinto.
Barça’s showed little reaction going forward. Messi forced one save from Lechia keeper Mateusz Bak and he also showed one delightful touch of skill to get past Grzelczak by the corner flag but his support was limited by Alexis having one of his less fortunate days in front of goal and by Cristian Tello having to go off injured in the 22nd minute. Joan Angel Roman came on in his place on the left wing.
Then in the 24th minute Messi found Alexis on the right and the Chilean stroked the ball on for Montoya who made an excellent sprint to make the overlap, Sergi Roberto darted into the middle to slide in and meet Montoya’s killer pass and knock the ball home from four yards. Six minutes later Alexis again found Montoya going outside him and Montoya again played it low across the face of the goal but this time there was no finisher.
There was little more in the first half though despite another poor Bartrá backpass that went out for another corner, Barça were more in control. Dos Santos had a half chance but he was stretching to reach Adriano’s cross and could only divert the ball wide. Then it was Dos Santos crossing from the right but Alexis failed to make a good control. Messi tried his luck with a free kick at the end of the half after a foul on Alexis but the Argentinian curled his shot just over the bar.
Barça continued with the same XI in the second half except for a change of goalkeeper with Oier replacing Pinto. In the 50th minute the young keeper was beaten after Montoya failed to cut out a bouncing ball and Grzelczak went through to fire a shot into the top of the net from a tight angle on the left.
Barça didn’t take long to draw level again. In the 55th minute Dos Santos opened the play to Alexis on the right and the Chilean slipped a pass inside to Messi who beat the advancing Bak with his trademark dink. Messi might have added another in the 61st minute when Sergi Roberto threaded a pass through to the overlapping Adriano who crossed to the near post where the Argentinian turned the ball narrowly wide.
Soon after Barça made a block substitution with seven youngsters coming on, leaving only Messi and Alexis from the initial XI. There was little of note in the final 25 minutes though Messi was finally replaced by Jean-Marie Dongou in the 77th minute and then two minutes later we finally got to see Neymar who came on for Alexis. The Brazilian had few opportunities to demonstrate his skill and his time on the pitch was notable only for the number of fouls he received. Lechia might have won the game in the final minute of injury time but Kugiel, bundling in, could only knock the ball wide.
The game was a bit of a downer after the positive show against Valerenga. Maybe the team missed having Tata Martino in the stands but the intensity wasn’t as high as on Saturday. There was another good show from Sergi Roberto in midfield while there was a composed debut from 18-year-old defender Macky Frank Bagnack for the last 25 minutes but little more. Conceding yet another goal from a corner will hopefully demonstrate the need to buy a central defender. This week the talk is about Chelsea’s David Luiz who would certainly improve our aerial strength though one has to question his occasional moments of madness and also acknowledge that Mourinho is unlikely to sell him to us cheaply. The other negatives today were the mistakes of Bartrá and Montoya, they weren’t up against Franck Ribery today but they still showed some sloppy defending. It was also disappointing to only get a few minutes of Neymar. hopefully we’ll see much more of him in Friday’s Gamper match against his ex-teammates of Santos.
Finally, there was sad news today with the passing of a Barça legend. Goalkeeper Antoni Ramallets, known as the ‘Gato de Maracana’ formed part of the legendary Cinco Copas team and played 573 games between 1947 and 1962 winning six Ligas in the process. He was 89 years old.
Lechia Gdansk: M. Bak; Deleu, Bieniuk, Madera, Pazio; Frankoski, Dawidowicz, Pietrowski, Grzelczak; Matsui, Buzala. Also played: Zyska Wojciech; Tuszynski; K. Bak, Mostrzewa, Duda, Kugiel, Lazaj.
Barça: Pinto (Oier h/t); Montoya (Femenia m64), Bartrá (Bagnack m64), Sergi Gómez (Planas m64), Adriano (Patric m64); Dos Santos (Sergi Samper m64), Song (Ilie m64), Sergi Roberto (Espinosa m64); Alexis (Neymar m79), Messi (Dongou m77) , Tello (Joan Roman m22).
Goals: m15 Bieniuk 1-0, m24 Sergi Roberto 1-1, m50 Grzelczak 2-1, m57 Messi 2-2.