Barcelona prepared for the new LaLiga season with their traditional Trofeu Joan Gamper fixture, which has been held annually since 1966. Their opponents for the 57th iteration of this exhibition fixture were Tottenham Hotspur.
The trophy, despite being a preseason fixture, holds great esteem in the hearts of Barcelona fans as it is named after the founder of the club. The fixture would, for the first time, be hosted away from the Camp Nou and in the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys – this stadium will also become the temporary home to the Catalan side throughout the upcoming season, due to the renovation work at Camp Nou.
Barcelona looked to use this game to find form as they aim to retain their LaLiga crown. The club were phenomenal last year in the league, finishing ten points clear of their arch-rivals, Real Madrid. However despite this great league campaign, the Blaugrana were pitiful in Europe; crashing out of the Champions League group stage, and then suffering defeat in the Europa League knockout round play-offs to Manchester United. Xavi Hernandez will hope that Premier League opposition, Spurs, will give his squad a taste of what the standard is at the highest level of European competition.
Ange Postecoglou was looking to build upon Spurs’ empathic victory over Shakhtar on Sunday with another victory on Tuesday, as preparation continues for their opening Premier League game against Brentford this weekend.
BAR: Ter Stegen, Balde, Araujo, Eric Garcia, Kounde, Romeu, Gavi, Pedri, De Jong, Raphinha, Lewandowski
TOT: Vicario, Pedro Porro, Dier, Sanchez, Reguilon, Skipp, Bissouma, Lo Celso, Solomon, Richarlison, Perisic
The game got off to a fantastic start for Barcelona, as the side scored in the third minute thanks to a clinical strike from Robert Lewandowski. The Catalan side were controlled in their build up, as Oriol Romeu played the ball through a gap between the Spurs defence for Raphinha to run onto, with the Brazilian crossing the ball to the back post for Lewandowski – who applied the finish past Guglielmo Vicario in the Spurs goal.
Barcelona almost added to this goal two minutes later, as the Catalan side exploited the space in behind the Spurs defence when Postecoglou’s side pressed high. Lewandowski ran onto a ball that was played over the top; the Polish striker squared it across the edge of the box to the onrushing Raphinha, but the Brazilian could not find the appropriate contact as he blasted the ball over the bar.
The Spurs side continued to press the Barcelona side throughout the early stages of the half, with the North London club winning possession in good areas of the pitch, however they were not able to create any chance of substance.
Barcelona dominated possession in these exchanges through short passing and great movement, however they were always willing to exploit the vast amount of space behind the Tottenham defence when the chance arose.
There was excitement every time Lewandowski received the ball, and it was no different in the 18th minute as he received it 25 yards out from goal. The Polish striker hit the ball towards the net, but Vicario was able to easily parry it to safety.
As the game entered the 23rd minute, Spurs found themselves level after a neat Oliver Skipp finish. The goal came completely against the run of play, as Sergio Reguilón crossed the ball from the left towards the edge of the box. Despite an initial effort thundering against the woodwork, the ball then fell to Skipp inside the box – and the midfielder was able to fire the necessary finish past the hapless Marc-André Ter Stegen to draw Spurs level.
Barcelona were almost in front soon after this goal as Pedri came close to embarrassing Vicario with a chip from just outside the penalty box. The Spurs keeper was terribly out of position, and the 20-year-old attempted an audacious chip, though the ‘keeper got a desperate touch to the ball as it was floating over him.
Their equaliser had given Spurs confidence that they were a match for Barcelona. Postecoglou’s side started playing with more confidence, and this brought about a number of problems for the defence, particularly down Barça’s right side. It was this very move that resulted in Spurs’ second strike of the evening, as a cross from Ivan Perišić was excellently met by the head of Skipp – blasting past Ter Stegen in the 36th minute to complete his brace.
Manor Solomon was a lively presence throughout, and he almost got his reward for his first-half performance. The Israeli was played through one-on-one, but his strike from inside the penalty box was straight at the Barcelona ‘keeper.
Barcelona started the second half looking to exploit the space behind the Spurs defence, to create chances as Gavi failed to capitalise on a ball over the top – while Lewandowski was unable to reach a through pass as it rolled into the grateful arms of Vicario.
Barcelona continued to look for an equaliser as Pedri blasted over from a well-worked move. The midfielder received a pass from the right-hand side of the Spurs penalty box, but the bounce did not sit well for the young Spaniard as he couldn’t keep his shot down.
In a similar fashion to the first half, Spurs created a chance against the run of play – however Pedro Porro’s strike from the edge of the box would not nestle in the Barcelona goal, as Ter Stegen made the necessary save to deny the Spanish fullback.
Barcelona made six changes on the hour mark, with two of them almost combining to score the equaliser. Marcos Alonso played the ball across the box to the determined winger Ferran Torres, though the latter could not find the net with his effort. This chance was the most noteworthy of a ten-minute period of sustained Barca pressure following the introduction of the substitutes.
The match – and atmosphere – seemed to die off around the 70th minute, however this all changed as once again the Barcelona team played the ball into the vast amount of space behind the Tottenham defence. Lamine Yamal dribbled the ball down the right wing and flashed a cross into the Spurs box, where Ferran Torres met it and tapped home Barcelona’s equaliser.
The goal brought about an injection of excitement once again to the crowd, and the Barça team looked to use this as they went in search of a winner. Alonso came close with a free-kick from the edge of the box, as Vicario had to tip over his bar to ensure the shot didn’t sneak in.
Yamal was electric every time he touched the ball – and the third goal stemmed from his play down the right wing once again, as he took the ball past Reguilon and played it to Ferran Torres. The Spaniard received this pass just outside the penalty area, and rolled it through for Ansu Fati, who slotted it home into the bottom corner of the Spurs net, with an excellent finish to a fantastic move.
The Fati goal in the 90th minute to put Barcelona ahead seemed like it would be the last bit of action from the match, but the Catalan side looked to entertain the crowd further and make their victory look more comfortable. Once more, Jamal attacked down the right wing torturing the injured Reguilon, begging for mercy, before playing the ball to Fermin Lopez. He seized upon the ball and immediately got his head up and squared it across the goal for Abde Ezzalzouli to finish comfortably into the bottom corner of the Spurs net.
Barcelona will be pleased with their performance. The team only had one period where they looked vulnerable, with constant pressure applied upon the Spurs defence through the second half. Xavi will enter their first match of the season happy with their performance, happy to have won the Joan Gamper trophy for the 46th time and confident that his team can get their LaLiga season off to a winning performance away to Getafe on Sunday.
Tottenham will take positives away from this game, but will look at a number of areas that need improving after their performance. Postecoglou will not be pleased at how easy the Barcelona side found it to get over and through their defence. The Australian will no doubt be looking at ways to lessen this incredibly evident weakness to his team.
Following their performance, questions will once again rise about the quality of this Spurs team and their ability without Harry Kane in the team. The English striker was missing from the squad tonight as rumours about his future continue, and games like this will not lessen concerns of Tottenham fans about season ahead should their talisman leave London. Spurs open their Premier League campaign on Sunday against Brentford, and Postecoglou will need a much better performance if he wants to start his reign with a win.