Messi tops Barca bill but fails to light up Bird`s Nest

Barcelona`s reserves, featuring a goalless 46-minute cameo from World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, beat Chinese champions Beijing Guoan 3-0 at the Bird`s Nest on Sunday.

Last Updated: Aug 09, 2010, 08:55 AM IST

Madrid: Barcelona`s reserves, featuring a goalless 46-minute cameo from World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, beat Chinese champions Beijing Guoan 3-0 at the Bird`s Nest on Sunday.

The Spanish champions, who agreed to pay the South Korean promoters of the first game on their Asian pre-season tour 200,000 euros (USD 263,900) in compensation after Messi played just 17 minutes on Wednesday, again put out essentially a one-name team.
After travelling to Asia without any of their Spanish World Cup winners -- the absence of Xavi in Seoul cost them another 100,000 euros -- Barcelona were further weakened by the departure of Danny Alves to Brazilian international duty.

Messi, returning to the stadium where he won Olympic gold with Argentina in 2008 and cheered at every touch, made every effort to provide the crowd with the goal they wanted but was twice denied by China goalkeeper Yang Zhi and once by the post.

His less well known team mates provided the scoring, with Sergi Roberto opening their tally after 10 minutes and Nolito doubling the advantage three minutes later after showing good control to volley home from an angle.

Messi`s best chance came two minutes before the break when he stroked a free kick over Beijing`s defensive wall from just outside the area only to see the ball hit Yang`s right hand post and bounce out.

Beijing had their chances too and Australian brothers Joel and Ryan Griffiths were both robbed of golden opportunities by bobbles on a pitch which was a disgrace to the splendour of the stadium.

Messi departed to be replaced by Zlatan Ibrahimovic at halftime and, with the high humidity unrelenting, Beijing looked the livelier of the two teams without being able to exploit their chances.
Swede Ibrahimovic, the only other name in the Barcelona team sheet familiar to most of the crowd, slotted home the final goal of the night from just outside the area a minute from the end.

The match, played out in front of a half-full stadium, was the highlight of China`s second National Fitness Day, which marks the anniversary of the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Bureau Report

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