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Monday July 27, 2009

Barcelona’s kids turn on the style at Wembley

LONDON: Barcelona’s young guns gave a tantalising glimpse into the future in the Wembley Cup yesterday as the understudies to the European champions romped to a 4-1 win over African champions Al Ahly.

For the second time in three days, Barca boss Pep Guardiola opted to keep most of his stars wrapped in cotton wool as the likes of Thierry Henry, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta were absent from a weakened Barca team.

But Guardiola’s precocious kids had impressed in their draw against a strong Tottenham team on Friday and they gave another eye-catching display in the pre-season tournament at England’s national stadium.

Bojan Krkic, 18, opened the scoring with a clinical finish before Hany El-Egezy equalised for Al Ahly. Jose Maria Rueda restored the Spanish champions’ lead with a thunderous strike and Jeffren Suarez, 21, and Pedro Rodriguez, 21, added to that lead after half-time.

While Barca’s homegrown talents stole the show, Guardiola also gave Lionel Messi his first pre-season ap­­pearance as a half-time substitute and the Argentina superstar came in for some heavy tackles from Al Ahly’s frustrated defenders.

There was an early escape for Al Ahly when goalkeeper Amir Abdel Hameed, under pressure from Seydou Keita, nearly fumbled Rueda’s cross into his own net.

Barca didn’t need gifts from the op­­position though and when they took the lead in the 16th minute, it was from a move of the highest quality.

Ruben Rochina was the catalyst with a buccaneering run from just inside the Al Ahly half. The teenage forward beat three players before teeing up Bojan, who drove his low shot past Abdel Hameed into the far corner.

Bojan has used the Wembley Cup to underline his claims to be a more regular part of Guardiola’s plans and this was the forward’s second goal of the tournament.

But Al Ahly equalised in the 31st minute. Ahmed Ali’s surging run and pass sent El-Egezy through on goal and he rounded Albert Jorquera before shooting into the empty net.

Equality for the Egyptians was short-lived however. In the 41st mi­­nute, Rueda turned sharply 35 yards from goal, took aim and beat Abdel Hameed with a blistering strike.

As he did against Tottenham, Guar­diola made 11 changes at half-time, with Messi, Yaya Toure and Victor Valdes among the introductions.

Barca went further ahead in the 56th minute when Rodriguez played a one-two with Messi and crossed for Suarez to slot home.

While attempting to cut out the cross, Abdel Hameed had been accidentally caught on the back of his head by Eidur Gudjohnsen and the Al Ahly goalkeeper was eventually stretchered off after several minutes treatment.

It wasn’t long before Barca claimed their fourth goal. In the 67th minute, Gudjohnsen lofted a perfect pass to Rodriguez, who beat the offside trap and finished well. — AFP

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