In a match that normally doesn’t take place during the beginning of a league campaign, Barca welcomed Manchester City to the Camp Nou for a heartwarming charity match.
The match was played in honor of former Barca assistant manager — and close friend and teammate of Pep Guardiola — Juan Carlos Unzue, who is suffering from the deadly disease known as ALS.
All ticket sales would go towards ALS research efforts, which prompted a vast amount of supporters to flock to the Camp Nou in support.
Let’s see how the action went down.
The action started off with a bang. Barca came close to scoring on two separate occasions to begin the match.
Barca with a quick start
The first opportunity came from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After a gorgeous cross from Sergi Roberto, he sent a dangerous header towards City goalkeeper Ortega Moreno. Unfortunately for Barca, Moreno got down and deflected the shot away from any danger after an ensuing scramble.
Two minutes later, it was Franck Kessie who tried to make his own impact on the match. During one of his signature forward runs, Kessie bombed forward into City’s penalty area. He unloaded a powerful shot towards Moreno, but the shot hit the post and pranced out of play.
Although these two chances didn’t end in goals, it was clear Barca was ready to put on a show in front of a crowd of over 91,000 people. Which was good to see, since this match was being played in front of a sea of supporters who came to support a really great cause.
City breaks the ice
In the 21st minute, the match saw Man City break the ice after an exciting start by Barca. Iñaki Peña leaped into the air to collect a harmless cross by City, but as he tried to come down with it and initiate a potential counter-attack, the young goalkeeper dropped the ball right into the shooting pocket of Julian Alvarez.
Alvarez was quick to react, and pounded home the first goal of the match.
It was an unfortunate mistake for Peña, who has captured the hearts of many Barca fans after his showing during Barca’s exciting pre-season period. But he had to pick himself up, as he still had a match to play and focus on. The fans helped him to do that, as they applauded the young prospect during his first touch after the error.
Aubameyang with a beautiful finish
After Peña’s error, Barca remained hot on City’s trails. Their efforts were rewarded in the 28th minute, as Aubameyang slotted home a beautiful tight angled volley near post to draw the match level at 1.
It was a storybook goal for Aubameyang. The Gabonese international has been linked to a move to Chelsea that could be completed very soon. Because of that, the goal stood as Aubameyang’s last gift to Barca fans. They took him in and cheered him on after his ugly exit from Arsenal.
After the goal, Barca and City continued to exchange jabs.
One of them appeared heavy at first, but Peña stood as the strong chin to keep Barca afloat after a pretty save in the 31st minute.
Peña had a very good match, a trend that’s continued from the pre-season. If Barca should ever need to call on Peña, the backup goalkeeper has shown he’s reliable and ready for any opportunity he’s given.
In the 39th minute, we saw a little bit of flair to go along with the heavy jabs. Roberto found himself in a tricky spot while under City’s relentless press in Barca’s own third. But the Spaniard didn’t panick, instead he was patient, and maneuvered around City’s press to open up the rest of the field for Barca.
It was a pretty sequence, one that some didn’t expect Roberto to be at the forefront of.
After that though, halftime came.
Changes were sure to be made after a back and forth first half. Would we see Robert Lewandowski and other regular contributors make their way onto the pitch? How about the rest of the action, and the thrilling conclusion we were sure to witness?
These were just a few questions that we had at halftime, but only one of these gave us conclusions, albeit a controversial one.
Once the second half began, a flurry of changes were made in terms of personnel. Ansu Fati came on for Ferran Torres immediately after both teams returned to the field.
We then saw Barca’s first mass substitution change in the 57th minute. Gerard Pique, Kessie, Jordi Alba and Aubameyang were taken off in favor of Eric Garcia, Pablo Gavi, Alejandro Balde, and Memphis Depay.
Aubameyang’s departure was the most notable one, as the Camp Nou faithful gave him a very loud ovation as he was walking off. Fans knows that was likely the last time he’ll wear as Barca shirt, and they made sure to give him a worthwhile send off.
In the 68th minute, we received another goal, as it was Frenkie De Jong who cleaned up Depay’s mess to make it 2-1 Barca.
Credit to De Jong, he’s been thrust into the nasty sea of rumors for months now, and he’s done nothing but work and perform the best he can.
In the 70th minute, City drew the match level again after a Pep Guardiola-esque sequence of play. There was plenty of hold up play, a good overlapping run, and good pass to a wide open Cole Palmer just at the edge of Barca’s goal line.
City looked to be having fun, but Barca didn’t want to simply let them win the game. They tried to separate themselves courtesy of a breakaway chance from Depay, but his shot was saved.
Depay made up for his miss minutes later though, as he sent a rocket into the back of the net after a good looking assist from Roberto.
Barca appeared to have the game wrapped up after Depay’s goal. But a 98th minute penalty — that looked very questionable at the least — gave City a chance to draw the game level again. Riyard Mahrez stepped up to take the penalty. He whipped it home to bring the match level at 3-3, and eventually give City a much deserved draw at the Camp Nou.
In the end, this was an exciting match for a very good cause. Two things you can only hope for in a charity match. Props to City, who looked very impressive despite their reserves playing most of the match. And Props to Barca too, who looked very competitive and clinical against an elite City side.
This was a good match for an amazing cause, as all ticket sales went towards ALS research efforts. Props to the fans who showed up and contributed to such an amazing cause.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Sunday against Real Valladolid. See you all then!