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Barcelona v Spurs, 28.07.18

Pasadena Rose Bowl, Los Angeles
8.05 pm (Local time)

(Barcelona won 5-3 on penalties)

Barcelona scorers:-
El Haddadi, 15
Arthur, 29

Spurs scorers:-
Son, 73
Nkoudou, 75

Attendance:- 66,805

Referee:- Kevin Stott
Assistants:- Ian Anderson & Cameron Blanchard

Barcelona (4-1-4-1):- Cillessen; Semedo, Santos, Lenglet, Miranda; Roberto (Capt.); Rafinha, Arthur, Gomes (sub Puig, 25), Denis Suarez (sub Perez, 22); Munir El Haddadi

Second half team (4-2-3-1):- Cillessen (Capt.); Palencia, Mingueza, Cuenca, Cucurella; Collado, Monchu; Perez (sub Tabla, 70), Puig, Malcom; Ruiz

Booked:- Monchu (foul on Nkoudou)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Gazzaniga (sub Vorm, 61); Aurier, Carter-Vickers, Davies, Walker-Peters (sub Sanchez, 46); Sissoko (sub Nkoudou, 34), Amos; Lucas Moura (sub Georgiou, 61), Eriksen (Capt.), Son; Llorente (sub Skipp, 46)

Subs not used:- Whiteman; Eyoma; Marsh

Spurs lose game of two halves on penalties

Despite the absence of Barcelona big guns such as Messi, Luis Suarez, Pique, Coutinho and Rakitic, Spurs were still out-classed after a high tempo start by Barcelona, who did feature new signings Lenglet and Arthur in the first half and Malcom in the second.

Spurs were not only missing their 9 World Cup semi-finalists but now also Lamela, Wanyama and Foyth. Foyth went home early due to injury; Wanyama hasn’t played in either game so far and one must assume that Erik Lamela has also suffered an injury. Now Moussa Sissoko (not favoured by most Spurs fans anyway) also had to depart before the first half ended with what looked like a hamstring injury.

The big crowd was dominated by Barcelona fans, who I assume were mostly of Hispanic origin, bearing in mind the game was played at Los Angeles.

Whether or not it was first team or B team players Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde (who has taken over from new Spain coach Luis Enrique) set his team up in an attacking and high pressing formation, putting Spurs on the back foot for most of the first phase. Centre-backs Santos and one of the new signings Lenglet sat back whilst full backs Semedo and Miranda bombed forward. Semedo was a particular danger to Spurs.

Spurs kicked off and after a while it was the skill of Lucas Moura on the right which relieved us from Barcelona’s high energy pressure. Munir El Haddadi, who spent last season on loan at Alaves had an early shot go over the target after a cross from the right. There was no flag when he and Denis Suarez got goal-side of the Spurs defence, before Denis Suarez fired over. Kyle Walker-Peters was not having much joy on the left flank, and Luke Amos, who had such a good game on Wednesday night, was not getting into the game either.

Barcelona took the lead in the fifteenth minute when Captain Sergi Roberto hit a cross deep from the left. Rafinha at the back post headed it inside for El Haddadi to have an easy finish. Spurs had been cut open.

Barcelona played for a while with 10 men before Denis Suarez was replaced by Perez. They carried on with 10 for longer because Gomes also suffered an injury, before he was eventually replaced by Puig.

Gazzaniga made a good save from Semedo, after a rapid attack by the Catalan side. Spurs went two down before we reached half an hour’s play. Barcelona were playing football of a different class, despite their absentees. This time Miranda switched the play deep from the left and Rafinha passed inside to Arthur (a 21-year-old Brazilian signing) who fired high into the net from the edge of the area.

Spurs won a free kick about 28 yards out, taken by Eriksen, but saved by goalkeeper Cillessen with a dive to the left. Cillessen also held a cross by Serge Aurier in the following play. Sissoko was replaced by Nkoudou and Eriksen slipped back to support Amos.

Cameron Carter-Vickers came to the rescue of Spurs as Ben Davies failed to control an infield pass by Llorente inside his own half. Son moved to the right of midfield to accommodate Nkoudou on the left and Lucas Moura in the middle.

Barcelona were late out for the second half and fielded an almost totally different team. Cillessen now wore the armband. Another exciting Brazilian – Malcom – took his place on the left wing. Spurs replaced Kyle Walker-Peters with Davinson Sanchez, allowing Ben Davies to move to left back. Llorente was replaced by 17-year-old Oliver Skipp, which allowed Eriksen to move back into his usual creative position, whilst Lucas Moura moved forward.

Perhaps the second half Barcelona side was younger and less experienced, but Spurs succeeded in taking the game into their territory consistently. Luke Amos was fouled and Eriksen took the free kick again from about 28 yards. This kick was curled around the outside of the wall and hit the keeper’s left post.

Three minutes later Davinson Sanchez sent a good forward pass to Eriksen, who sent it to Lucas Moura. Lucas passed short to Son on his left, but “Sonny”’s shot was blocked. Son had another chance after a nice move from the right, with Eriksen making the final pass. Son’s shot was not hit with full strength, and now he was hobbling for a while too.

Michel Vorm replaced Gazzaniga in goal, whilst Anthony Georgiou replaced Lucas Moura. Now Son took over duties at the front, with Georgiou primarily operating on the right. The Cyprus International had an impressive game too.

Malcom had by and large been kept at bay by the Spurs defence, but he did have a decent shot well saved by Vorm, moving towards his right post, conceding a corner. Monchu got the only booking of the game for a foul on Nkoudou, before Barcelona made their last change with Tabla replacing Perez, who had played in the first half.

Spurs levelled the scores with two goals in as many minutes. Nkoudou had passed inside for Ben Davies, whose cross reached Eriksen. Eriksen’s shot on the far side of the area was blocked and ran to Son, who could hardly miss. Then it was 2-2! This time Aurier’s cross from the right reached Son just in front of the near post. Son was not fully aware of the whereabouts of the ball, and his effort was cleared as far as Georgiou, whose shot might have been cleared from behind the line. However, the ball was fired home by Georges-Kevin Nkoudou.

Both sides were keen to win the game outright, as the rules dictate three points for a win; two for a penalty-shoot-out win and one for defeat on penalties.

Oliver Skipp made a good determined forward run but was just unable to reach an attempted one-two pass by Son. Georgiou, after some good play, got the ball to Eriksen just on the edge of the 6-yard area, but his effort was saved. Georgiou then provided a pass for Son, but his deflected effort ran to the keeper. Amos fed Eriksen, but he fired over.

Barcelona had one effort go into the side netting after Amos and Aurier had been beaten, but at the other end, Amos had a shot diverted for a corner, having been presented with the chance by Skipp. Eriksen took the corner and Son tried a flick from the near post, but the ball went over the target. Son had another opportunity after an excellent ball by Aurier, but his first touch was too heavy. Another long-range effort by Son was easy for Cillessen.

I’d love to tell you the full story of the penalty shoot-out, but the Premier Sports recording of the game cut out before the conclusion. Suffice to say that Anthony Georgiou’s effort was the one failure, but he had impressed in his time on the pitch. (Spurs successful kicks were taken by Son, Davies and Davinson Sanchez)

To play against ANY Barcelona side in front of a big crowd must have been a great experience for our young players such as Amos, Skipp and Georgiou, which must augur well for the future of Spurs, who have one remaining game against AC Milan on Tuesday night. The whole team performed well in the second half and made a deserved come-back.

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