Barcelona easily beat AS Roma 3-0 on Wednesday to win the 2015 Joan Gamper Trophy, putting on a show in front of their home fans at the Camp Nou on the night of the club's official player presentations.
Lionel Messi, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic all scored wonderful goals against an overmatched Roma squad, who finished the first half without a single shot on goal and were overrun throughout the match.
An unfortunate injury to Jordi Alba was the only black spot on what was a wonderful night for Barcelona—the perfect dress rehearsal before the final of the European Super Cup against Sevilla on Tuesday.
Before the start of the match, the home fans treated their stars to an incredible reception, as Barcelona officially presented its squad for the 2015-16 season. The Blaugrana shared these spectacular images on Twitter:
From the opening minute, the Champions League holders showed that their struggles in the pre-season were largely due to the absence of the biggest stars. It took just minutes before Wojciech Szczesny had to make his first save, denying Luis Suarez from close range.
The Arsenal loanee had a busy opening 10 minutes, and per Sport English, he had to be at his best to stop Messi from opening the scoring after a nice team move:
Roma gradually started to grow into the match, but the best chances were for the hosts. Thomas Vermaelen flashed a shot across the goal after a nice corner from Rakitic, and Szczesny reacted just in time to intercept a beautiful cross pass from Messi to Neymar.
Rafinha, Rakitic and Neymar all had good chances to open the scoring inside the first 20 minutes, but poor finishing from the Catalans kept the Giallorossi in the match. It wasn't until the 26th minute when the hosts finally broke the deadlock, as Messi played another cross pass to Jeremy Mathieu, who immediately laid the ball off to Neymar.
The Brazilian rounded Szczesny before slotting home, but La Liga blogger Sergi Dominguez gave full credit to Messi for his fantastic pass:
Barcelona dominated possession and gave away few chances to the visitors, and with half-time on the horizon, frustration started to creep into the Italians' game. Messi in particular took a couple of nasty shots, and the Argentinian star lost his cool just before half-time, as he appeared to head-butt Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa before grabbing the defender by the neck.
Sport's Rik Sharma was shocked:
In truth, Messi was lucky not to see a straight red card for his actions, and he likely would have if Yanga-Mbiwa had played the situation and gone down. Fortunately for the fans and neutral viewers, he didn't, and both players received a yellow card for the incident.
Minutes later, the four-time Ballon d'Or winner finished off a beautiful team move with a shot from the edge of the box, and La Liga blogger Rafael Hernandez thought it was the perfect answer to the earlier situation:
Leading by two goals, Barcelona's official Twitter account shared some statistics showing just how dominant the Blaugrana were in the first half:
The team received a standing ovation as the half-time whistle blew, and rightly so, as they easily could have been up by three or four goals.
Roma made a number of changes at half-time, while Barcelona manager Luis Enrique made just one substitution, taking off Vermaelen for Alba. The first chance of the second half fell to the hosts, as Messi failed to produce a dangerous shot after a nice one-two with Suarez.
As so often happens during pre-season friendlies, the pace of the match dropped dramatically early in the second half. Barcelona decided to spice things up by introducing Munir El Haddadi, Andres Iniesta and Pedro, and per football pundit Graham Hunter, the latter received the biggest cheer, albeit a brief one:
While the crowd was still chanting Pedro's name, Rakitic decided to take aim from outside the box, blasting a shot into the top left corner. Hernandez supplied the pun:
Barcelona's perfect evening took a sudden hit with less than 20 minutes to play, as Alba had to leave the pitch, per Sport's Simon Harrison. The Spain international headed straight for the dressing room, and at this point in time, it's unclear how serious the injury is.
Pedro, Rakitic and El Haddadi pushed for a fourth goal inside the final 10 minutes, but Morgan de Sanctis showed his class with several saves, indicating he won't be giving up his starting position in the Roma goal lightly.
With the exception of Alba's injury, Barcelona couldn't have asked for a better night. Defensively, the hosts were hardly ever troubled, and the midfielders and the attackers had their way with Roma for 90 minutes. Sevilla better be warned, as the Blaugrana appear to be in midseason form ahead of the European Super Cup showdown.
The Serie A season does't start until late August, so Roma have plenty of time to iron out the kinks before their first match against Hellas Verona. The Giallorossi better find their best form in a hurry, as they'll host defending champions Juventus on Matchday 2.
As shared by Barcastuff, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu commented on the rumours surrounding the future of Pedro, dismissing the possibility of a departure:
Javier Mascherano was happy with his performance and acknowledged it took some time for Barcelona to find their form during pre-season: