Barcelona survived a mighty scare as they were forced to come from behind to claim a 3-2 friendly victory against the A-League All Stars.
In front of 70,174 fans – mostly of a Barcelona persuasion – the Dwight Yorke-coached All Stars claimed an unlikely 2-1 lead in the second half before being pegged back twice in the final 20 minutes on Wednesday.
The selection of the A-League’s best, who were playing their first game since 2014, gave a good account of themselves with departing Wellington winger Reno Piscopo a standout after contributing a goal and an assist in the defeat.
Central Coast’s 17-year-old forward Garang Kuol also gave an impressive cameo from the bench, twice coming close to scoring which would have given the All Stars an improbable win.
“They played a really good game,” said Barcelona manager Xavi.
“It was a good test for us to finish the season and now to prepare for the next one.
“I think, tactically, they (the All Stars) were very good. They created chances in transition and we suffered a lot.
“It was a big surprise for us because I don’t follow the A-League a lot.”
This was no second-rate Barcelona side given five of Xavi’s starting XI at the Accor Stadium began Sunday’s loss to Villarreal.
Among them were veteran duo Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets, with Barca showing their intent from the get-go when Balde forced Macarthur goalkeeper Filip Kurto into action.
Brisbane’s Jay O’Shea and Socceroos hopeful Jason Cummings both had chances to put the All Stars ahead but neither could finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Barca dominated but could not penetrate in the opening half an hour, to the extent fans broke out into spontaneous renditions of the Mexican wave to keep their minds occupied.
Concentration slipped momentarily for the All Stars when Central Coast defender Kye Rowles was beaten by Busquets and within three passes Ousmane Dembele scored the opening goal.
It was a similar tale after halftime, but this time it was the All Stars who were the beneficiaries.
Within 10 minutes, Piscopo had fired in a rebound from an Anthony Caceres shot before squaring for Western Sydney’s Adama Traore to finish from close range and give Yorke’s side an unlikely 2-1 lead.
Yorke threw on Kuol and he looked the most likely to grab a third.
He snatched at one chance and hit the woodwork late on, and for that Barca made him pay.
Barcelona’s own Adama Traore drew them level with 20 minutes left before wunderkind Ansu Fati, 19, made it 3-2 to wrap up victory for the Spanish giants.
“I’m sure that everybody has probably left here pretty pleased,” Yorke said.
“Maybe, from our point of view, we’re disappointed with the fact we didn’t win the game.
“Overall, I think it was a terrific performance from the players. They deserve all the credit and praise they are likely to get.”