Barcelona's stuttering preseason continued in a 2-2 draw against Lechia Gdansk in which Brazilian superstar signing Neymar made his much-anticipated debut.
The defending La Liga champs had started their build-up to the season with a 2-0 loss to Champions League winners Bayern Munich and while things got easier in their next outing—a 7-0 win over Valerenga—Barca certainly didn't have things all their own way in the clash with the Polish side.
In fact, Lechia Gdansk shocked their famous visitors by taking the lead not once but twice. The opening goal came with just 14 minutes on the clock when the home side pressed the Barca defence and won a corner that was taken by Pawel Dawidowicz.
BeIN Sport described what happened next:
Dawidowicz sent in a perfectly-flighted cross that was powerfully met by the head of captain Jaroslav Bieniuk and sailed over the head of Pinto in the Barcelona goal for a well-deserved lead.
As expected, the Catalan giants responded immediately to going behind and pressed the Lechia Gdansk goal, probing for the opening that would give them an equalizer. Within 11 minutes, they were back on level terms when Sergi Roberto finished off a fabulous team move with a low strike into the net.
Football analyst Rafael Hernandez discusses the long-term impact of the midfielder's play:
Martin Montoya deserves a lot of credit for setting up the goal with his excellent vision. He moved swiftly down the right side before sending in a perfect low cross that was met perfectly by the on-rushing Roberto.
Barcelona dominated the rest of the first half, laying siege to the Lechia Gdansk goal with a series of corners and free kicks but even with Lionel Messi pulling the strings, they could not force a second goal.
And they were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal within five minutes of the restart when Lechia Gdansk sensationally went in front for the second time.
A long pass to Piotr Grzelczak was miscontrolled by Montoya who then decided to question a missed handball call rather than stop the attack, which ended with Piotr Grzelczak gleefully thumping the ball into the net.
Barcelona's official Twitter account regretfully discussed Grzelczak's strong finish:
Grzelczak then came incredibly close to helping his side into a 3-1 lead when he sent a great ball back into the box that Tuszynski chested over when it really seemed easier to score.
This time it was Barcelona's turn to make their opponents suffer for failing to be ruthless in front of goal with the magical feet of Messi doing the damage when he chipped the keeper after another clinical passing move.
This Barcelona fan account described it best:
The hectic pace of the game slowed down as the second half progressed, although there was still a notable moment late on:
Neymar had not played since helping Brazil win the Confederations Cup, but he did enough to get fans excited by simply coming on as a late substitute. There would be no dream scoring debut for the Brazilian as he saw little of the ball in a 12-minute cameo appearance and the game fizzled out in a 2-2 draw, not helped by a flurry of second-half substitutions.
The result shows that Barcelona still have a lot of work to do before the Spanish season kicks off. New manager Gerardo Martino didn't make the trip to Poland and most of the international players who had taken part in the Confederations Cup were also still missing.
However, the game certainly provided some much-needed game time for Barca with more important matches to come.
For Lechia Gdansk, the result will rank as one of their finest, friendly match or not. The home side turned in a terrific performance against one of the greatest teams in the world and can count themselves unlucky not to have won the match.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona: A-
By far the best player on the pitch, Messi still managed to seem completely disinterested too often. He missed a few opportunities in the box and there were few of his trademark darting runs to admire.
However, he still got the equalizing goal with a fantastic finish that he made look much easier than it was.
The fact that he played virtually the entire match is a great sign that his fitness is where it needs to be heading into the season.
Martin Montoya, Barcelona: B
The full back demonstrated the best and the worst of his play in the game, with his defensive qualities causing the most concern for watching coaches.
Montoya created the opening goal with a beautiful assist for Roberto but he was badly at fault for Lechia Gdansk's second goal when he miscontrolled a pass and then failed to cut out the striker's shot., That lack of focus is a real problem for the 22-year-old defender.
There is still time for him to improve, but Montoya needs more consistency if he's to secure his place in the first team.
Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona: A
Few players on Barcelona were more impressive on the day than Alexis Sanchez. He showcased a lot of creativity while also providing several opportunities for his teammates.
Not only did he get the assist on Messi's goal, but he could have had a goal or two for himself if his shooting had been less wayward. His clever forward play won his side a number of free kicks in dangerous positions, too, demonstrating his value to the team..
Even with plenty of other talented players on the roster, Sanchez should be given plenty of starts this season.
Jan Bak, Lechia Gdansk: A
Although the Lechia goalkeeper lost two goals, he was in excellent form against one of the most attacking sides in world football. He made some outstanding saves and confidently clutched most crosses into the box.
The goals he did lose were of such quality it's hard to imagine any goalkeeper in the world saving them and Bak, in fact, kept his side in the game with a number of important stops.
Piotr Grzelczak, Lechia Gdansk: A+
Grzelczak's impressive pace and skill on the ball gave the Barcelona players a headache throughout the game. His goal was an impressive strike that gave the keeper no chance and the striker could have added to his tally.
His all-round play brought his team-mates into the game, helping to create some genuine goal-scoring opportunities that thrilled the home fans.
Grzelczak's skill in front of goal should act as a bit of a wake-up call for Barca, who will know that defensive improvements are essential.
Barcelona are back on home territory for the battle for the Joan Gamper Trophy against Neymar's former club, Santos. The match will take place on Friday, August 2 at 9:30 p.m. local time.
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