1-0 Moriri (min.1)
1-1 Ezquerro (min.77)
1-2 Marc Crosas (min.81)
FC Barcelona beat Mamelodi Sundowns in tonight’s friendly in Pretoria (South Africa). After going a goal down to the home side, Barça bounced back with two late goals in their last game of the season.
Barça found the going harder than they expected in South Africa. The Loftus Stadium was filled to
capacity to watch Mamelodi Sundowns take an early lead that was cancelled out by Ezquerro and Marc
Crosas goals to end the season in a winning way.
Barça were taken by surprise by the ‘Brazilians’, as the Pretorian side are known. The game was only a minute old when Mamelodi Sundowns broke down the wing and Moriri finished the move off in style. But the South Africans had no intention of sitting back on their surprise lead and continued to play attacking football, though rarely troubling Valdés. Rijkaard’s side was also struggling to get the ball forward, with most of the early play focusing on ambitious crosses, and a ninth minute Eto'o chip that goalkeeper Marlin managed to retain on his chest.
As the second half grew older, Barça started looking more dangerous, with Eto’o featuring prominently in almost everything they did. The Cameroonian came close with a drive from outside the area, and saw a goal ruled out for an earlier infringement. Shortly after he robbed the Sundowns keeper of possession, and laid Deco up with a great chance that was scissor-kicked wide. Giuly was drawn more and more into play down the wings, but nothing Rijkaard’s side could do managed to cancel out Moriri’s early goal.
Rijkaard made five changes to his team at half-time, but Mamelodi Sundowns preferred to make their substitutions while the game was in progress, which destroyed the rhythm of what had been developing into an attractive game.
The second 45 minutes were largely uneventful until Ezquerro exploited a dead ball situation inside the area to slot the ball home into an empty net. Marc Crosas, fresh onto the pitch, scored the second with an excellent angled shot following a delightful assist from Ronaldinho. Two moments of genius in the final moments of the game meant that FC Barcelona were able to end an up and down season with a victory on South African soil.
The last friendly that FC Barcelona played outside of Catalunya was on April 24 against Al-Ahly in Egypt. Goals from Javier Saviola, Bojan Krkic and Samuel Eto'o (2) saw the Blaugrana win 4-0 against the local team.
The friendly game in South Africa on Wednesday against the Mamelodi Sundowns is the final encounter of the 2006-07 season for FC Barcelona. Frank Rijkaard has named four youth team players along with 16 first team stars for the trip.
Now that all the competitive matches have finished, Barça have one last appointment as they take
on the South African champions at 20:00 on Wednesday in Pretoria. The game will be shown live on
Barça TV, Barça TV Online (http://www.fcbonline.tv/) and TV3 and will be
the last chance for supporters to see the squad in action and another opportunity to see the four
young players, who will be trying to prove what they can do.
All Available Players Included
Every Barça player that does not have physical problems or are with their international sides have been named in the squad. This outing could also be a final farewell to some FC Barcelona players, who could well be playing their final game for the club as the club prepares to reorganise the squad over the summer break. Sylvinho, Edmilson and Eidur Gudjohnsen have not travelled to South Africa because of injuries, while Javier Saviola, Lionel Messi and Rafael Márquez are with their international team-mates preparing for the forthcoming Copa América.
Chance To Impress
Barça B players Marc Crosas, Dimas, Jesús Olmo and Víctor Vázquez have all been called into the squad for the trip as Rijkaard hopes to give them even more experience. The quartet have already played in friendlies this season and have another chance to prove themselves to the Dutch coach.
Mamelodi Sundowns have won the Castle Premiership (South African league) title for the past two seasons. They have three South African internationals in their ranks with Calvin Marlin, Vuyo Mere and Surprise Moriri all representing their country. Coach Gordon Ingesund has eight foreign players in the squad and they are currently involved in pre-season training.