FC Barcelona used a cohesive blend of youth academy players, experienced veterans, and international stars in a pre-season opening 3–1 victory over Celtic FC on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.
The game was Barça’s first in the 2016/17 International Champions Cup, a pre-season friendly tournament featuring the world’s most renowned clubs.
Midfielder Arda Turan and striker Munir El Haddadi notched first half goals to pace the Blaugranas. Celtic briefly drew back level just shy of 30 minutes, but less than one minute later an own-goal handed the lead right back to Barça.
The match was a defensive struggle throughout much of the second half.
Newcomer Denis Suárez had the best look after the break, but his 57th minute blast from just beyond the penalty spot was gobbled up by the keeper.
The Catalans didn’t waste much time getting on the board. In the 11th minute, full-back Aleix Vidal slid a pass from near the corner flag to Turan at the edge of the area, and the Turkish midfielder, in his second season donning the Blaugrana shirt, one-timed the ball out of the reach of Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon and into the upper right corner for Barça’s first goal of the 2016/17 pre-season.
The half-hour mark saw each team score in quick succession. First, in the 29th minute, Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths benefited from a Barça miscue deep in their own defensive end and beat FCB goalkeeper Jordi Masip to draw the Scots level at a goal apiece.
But mere seconds after the re-start, Barça’s Juan Cámara, charging up the left flank, rolled a cross into the Celtic area. There was nary a Barça player in sight, but, as Celtic defender Efe Ambrose slid in to clear, he deflected Cámara’s cross into the Celtic net to give the lead right back to the Catalans, 2–1.
Then, in the 40th, Munir gave Barça a 3–1 lead after striker Luis Suárez managed to squeeze a pass through a pair of defenders who had him corralled along the by-line to find Munir all alone at the doorstep. Munir went top shelf to avert a last ditch tackle by a Celtic defender.
Lionel Messi, who ended his vacation early to come back and train with the team, started and played the first 45 minutes before being replaced by midfielder Sergi Samper at the start of the second half.
Barça continue the pre-season on 3 August, when they face Leicester City in Stockholm, Sweden, their second game of three scheduled in the International Champions Cup.