That was magnificent entertainment. Erik ten Hag looks reasonably content, even if his team couldn’t hold on for what would have been Manchester United’s first-ever win at Camp Nou. Xavi isn’t too happy, though. He’s right up in the referee’s grille, presumably having his say about Fred’s late handball which possibly should have led to a penalty. Fred did move his arm, which wasn’t close to his body, though close proximity may have saved the day. You could argue it both ways, as folk will presumably do, politely and respectfully, on the internet. But in truth neither team deserved to lose. Both contributed to a rip-roaring match that was entertaining enough during a goalless first half, but really took off when the nets started bulging with satisfying regularity. Maybe some imperfections on display by both sides will annoy the purists, but never mind them. That was fun with a capital Eff, and here’s to another cracker next week at Old Trafford. Nobody will want to miss that … and good luck predicting the outcome!
What a game that was!
90 min +4: Gavi crosses deep from the left. Araujo competes at the far stick. His presence forces United into the concession of another corner, one the visitors hoick clear without too much fuss. That should be that.
90 min +3: Fati drifts in from the left and takes a shot. Deflected wide left for a corner. United clear it. Garnacho can’t control a long ball. Had he managed to do so, he’d have torn clear.
90 min +1: Kounde tries to release Torres down the right but overcooks the pass and it’s a goal kick.
90 min: Casemiro tees up Rashford, 25 yards out. Rashford tries to thread a shot into the bottom left but doesn’t catch it and it’s an easy claim for Ter Stegen. There will be four added minutes. Can there not be 44? Please? This is so much fun.
89 min: Fernandes spurns a chance to release Rashford. Malacia dribbles down the left and nearly makes it into the box. Neither side are settling for the draw!
87 min: The free kick’s hoicked into the mixer. Casemiro, disoriented, crashes the ball off the left-hand post! United hack clear. The ball’s returned. Fati creams a shot goalwards from ten yards only for De Gea to sensationally block! How have United kept Barca out there?!
86 min: No penalty, says VAR. United may have got away with one there, because Fred’s arm wasn’t by the side of his body. But now there’s a free kick to defend.
85 min: Fati likes the look of it. He shapes to shoot, but dinks it into the mixer instead. Some head tennis. Barcelona claim a penalty Roberto glances the ball onto Fred’s arm. This will be checked by VAR.
84 min: Gavi busies himself along the inside-left channel and is upended by Casemiro, who’s on a booking and wants to watch himself. Just a free kick.
83 min: Ferran Torres, formerly of Manchester City, comes on for Raphinha. A surprising sub, given Raphinha’s just scored and has played well. He’s not happy as he stomps into the dugout.
82 min: Sancho is replaced by Garnacho.
81 min: … Fati looks for the top-right corner only to curl high and wide.
80 min: Good luck predicting how this is going to end. Rashford is sent into the Barca box down the right. He’s got time and space but slashes wide right. Ter Stegen launches long. Shaw heads weakly back towards De Gea. Raphinha nips in and attempts to loop a header over the keeper, who gets a fingertip to limit the damage to a corner kick. And from that …
78 min: What an impact Casemiro’s made, huh. He’s been magnificent tonight, but that was a costly mistake all right.
Barcelona were beginning to look impotent. But United offer them a gift. Shaw plays out loosely from the back. Casemiro tries to help only to clank the ball straight to Kounde, who finds Raphinha on the right. Raphinha whips in low. Lewandowski looks to flick towards the bottom left. He doesn’t make contact but the ball flies straight in anyway! The hosts level! Out of nothing!
74 min: Lewandowski nearly releases Gavi down the left with a delicate flick. But with Gavi about to burst into the box, Casemiro comes across to take control of the situation, stepping in to spirit the ball away. What an impact he’s made.
73 min: Fred bombs down the middle. He’s got Rashford and Weghorst waiting to be sprung clear, but can’t make the pass because Gavi takes one for the team by taking a handful of his opponent’s shirt. Into the book he goes.
72 min: Raphinha nutmegs Malacia and is shoved in the chest for his trouble. Malacia goes into the book.
70 min: Roberto lands on Weghorst’s ankle, studs up. The director doesn’t care to show the challenge in detail, suffice to say Roberto is fortunate that Weghorst didn’t make a big deal of the challenge. It didn’t look great. Happily nobody’s hurt.
69 min: Fred glides in from the right. He has options but drags a dismal shot wide instead.
68 min: Finally, the free kick. Lewandowski sends a poor effort over the bar. “Your mention of Marcos Alonso’s dad playing in the 1980s had me diving for a metaphorical reference book and, sure enough, Marcos Alonso Snr. was in the Barca team done over 3-0 at OT on March 21st 1984,” writes Adam Roberts, giving me another excuse to trail this …
67 min: Barca make a triple change. On come Fati, Christensen and Balde for Alonso, Alba and Kessie.
66 min: Gavi goes up the other end and draws a foul from Fred. A free kick just outside the United box. Before it can be taken, the referee books Casemiro and Erik ten Hag for arguing the toss re the penalty that wasn’t..
64 min: Rashford tears after a long pass down the right. He enters the box and comes off second best in a barge with Kounde. He wants a penalty, but he’s not getting it. He possibly should have, though. There was contact. Was it in the box? Maybe, maybe not. One for VAR. But they’re not even getting a free kick.
62 min: Barca deal with the set piece easily enough. But they’re struggling to hold onto the ball up the other end. United are suddenly swanning around one of the great cathedrals in world football with some pomp. To think they couldn’t beat Young Boys home or away last season! That seems an awfully long time ago now.
61 min: That’s stunned the Camp Nou. United are up for more, as well. Fred sends Rashford away down the left. The ball’s worked to Wan-Bissaka on the right. He shoots. The ball’s deflected wide right for another corner.
United go up the other end and win a corner of their own. Shaw plays it short to Rashford, who dribbles along the byline before firing low through the six-yard box. Fernandes backflicks, six yards out, shades of Lee Sharpe all those years ago at Old Trafford. The ball pings off Kounde’s chest at the far stick and into the net. What a turnaround!
58 min: Barca help United out by over-complicating the corner, playing it short and fannying about.
57 min: A free kick for Barca out on the left. Raphinha and De Jong stand over it. The former curls it long, forcing Weghorst to head out for a corner on the right. United will hope to defend this one a bit better.
55 min: This game has really opened up now. Rashford nearly gets in for a second in short order, only to be blocked by Alonso. Then Barca counter, Lewandowski challenging for a long pass that breaks to Raphinha, who sends a screamer towards the top left. Somehow, De Gea doesn’t just save the shot, but plucks it out of the air and catches! This is great fun.
54 min: Ter Stegen won’t be happy at being beaten at his near post. But what power Rashford put behind that shot. Clinical as you like!
What a response by United! Fred creams a pass down the inside-right channel for Rashford to chase. Rashford has no right to score, but he takes a touch to stride away from Alonso, before firing a forensic shot past Ter Stegen at his near post!
51 min: Alonso struggles to hold back the tears. His father Marcos – who also played for Barcelona, back in the 1980s – passed away last week. There’s a fine tribute to his dad.
Barca go up the other end and win a corner down the right. It’s swung long. Alonso rises above a static Fred at the far post, and heads downwards. The ball bounces up into the top left. Easy as that!
48 min: Wan-Bissaka works his way down the right and whistles a low cross through the six-yard box. Weghorst backheels to confuse Arajuo, and suddenly Sancho is free on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. He slashes wide. And it’s a costly miss, because …
47 min: Araujo strides down the right only for his cross to be half-cleared by Shaw. The ball breaks to Raphinha, who pearls a first-time riser towards the top left. The ball drifts inches wide of the post. De Gea probably had that covered … but it was close and you wouldn’t put the whole mortgage on it.
46 min: Raphinha makes good down the right and curls long, looking for Lewandowski at the far stick. Lewandowski is eased out of it by Varane, then clatters into Wan-Bissaka to concede a foul.
Barcelona get the second half started. No changes. “Maybe it’s not kits that are a reason for booing but rather two ex-Real Madrid players in the Man United starting line-up,” writes Admir Pajic, who may have a point. “Two-and-half, if you count De Gea’s almost transfer to Madrid.”
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Nothing much happens during added time, and it’s all square after the first quarter of this tie. United have been the better side and should be leading, but Wout Weghorst shot straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen when clean through. They’ll be the happier team, nonetheless.
45 min: Alba sweeps a low cross in from the left. Lewandowski prepares to swivel and shoot first time from 12 yards, only for the presence of Shaw to put him off. Goal kick. There will be two added first-half minutes.
44 min: Roberto’s first act is to skitter into space down the right, only to fail to find a team-mate with his low cross. A shame for Barca that their sub wasn’t quite up to speed yet, because United were tugged out of shape there.
43 min: Varane goes into the book after being spun by, then clipping, Gavi.
42 min: Pedri goes down holding his left leg. He can’t continue. He’s replaced by Sergi Roberto.
40 min: Raphinha dribbles hard down the right but can’t get the better of Malacia. More irritated whistles. United are doing a fine job in frustrating the home fans.
39 min: Barca’s corner on the left leads to another on the right. Neither cause United any significant problem. Anyway, the ITN News at 545 (see preamble). “That’s certainly an odd time for a TV news program to start, but I think Iceland’s Stöð 2 had the oddest in the 80s and 90s,” reports Kári Tulinius. “Their main news program started at nineteen minutes past seven in the evening, or 19:19.”
37 min: Wan-Bissaka dozes on the edge of his own box and allows Alba to steal the ball and break into the United box down the left. Alba shoots from a tight angle, only to be denied by a combination of De Gea and Wan-Bissaka’s recovering tackle. Alba wants a penalty but he’s not getting it. Just a corner.
35 min: Fernandes stomps down the right and cuts back for Rashford, who is denied a shooting opportunity by Araujo. The flag then pops up late for offside.
34 min: The in-form Rashford sashays in from the left and manufactures a no-backlift curler that nearly squeaks into the top right. Ter Stegen extends an arm to save brilliantly. That’s great football all round, and United are proper knocking on the door here.
33 min: From the corner, Casemiro heads over. United come again, Sancho and Fred nearly combining cutely down the left. Not quite. The visitors look the more likely at the minute.
32 min: Now De Jong is penalised for clipping Fernandes to the floor. More whistles. More home irritation. United are getting under Barcelona’s skin. Shaw wedges the free kick down the inside-right channel and nearly releases Rashford, who can’t get a shot away but does earn a corner.
30 min: Alba wins a corner off Sancho down the left. United are awarded a goal kick. Alba is furious, and is booked for dissent. Ear-splitting whistles ping off the walls of Camp Nou.