Barcelona eased to a 2-0 victory over Dinamo Bucharest at the Arena Nationala in Bucharest in its final preseason friendly on Saturday, courtesy of a well-taken Lionel Messi goal in the opening minutes of the game, and a fine lobbed effort from Ibrahim Afellay late on.
It did not take long for Tito Vilanova's side to take the lead, Messi turning away from the challenge of the Dinamo defender Dragos Grigore in the fourth minute before drilling home a fine effort from just inside the penalty area.
That goal, the 25-year-old's fifth during pre-season, marked the beginning of an extended period of dominance for the Blaugrana, as Dinamo struggled to create any clear-cut chances in the opening half. The closest it came to testing Victor Valdes in the Barcelona goal was in the 25th minute when Marius Alexe blazed a shot wide from the right-hand side of the area under pressure from Marc Barta.
Barcelona, meanwhile, could easily have been leading by more than just the one goal as the referee blew the whistle to mark the end of the first half, with Messi and Alexis Sanchez guilty of wasting decent opportunities.
Messi had a glorious chance to double his tally in the 12th minute, but instead shot high over the bar with his left foot, after some accomplished build-up play from Alexis on the left.
The provider on that occasion then had a chance of his own late in the half, but the Chile international could not get his volley on target after some nonchalant ball-juggling from inside the Dinamo box had created space for him to get a shot away.
Barcelona made a number of changes at the interval as Vilanova looked to rotate his squad ahead of the start of the Liga season, and its play faltered in the opening stages of the second half, with Dinamo coming close to equalizing in the 51st minute.
An inswinging corner by from the left was met with a firm header by the Dinamo midfielder Marius Tucudean that had Victor Valdes at full-stretch to keep out and tip over the crossbar.
One of the Barcelona substitutes, Andres Iniesta, was a couple of yards away from making it 2-0 in the 58th minute when he dinked an ambitious shot towards goal from the edge of the Dinamo box that drifted onto the roof of Kristijan Naumovski's net.
Both side's numerous changes in the second half disrupted the flow of the match, and this was reflected in the small number of goalscoring chances after the break.
There was positive news for the Blaugrana late in the second half as David Villa returned to action for the first time since breaking his leg in the Club World Cup semifinal against Al Sadd in December.
Despite the slow pace of the second half, Afellay managed to stamp his mark on the game by making it 2-0 in injury time with a lobbed finish, after he controlled Javier Mascherano's through-ball brilliantly inside the Dinamo box.
The victory tonight makes it five pre-season matches unbeaten for Vilanova's men, with their Liga campaign set to get under way next weekend. The Catalan side's first match of the new league season is on Aug. 19, as it plays host to Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.
- Tito Vilanova
- Victor Valdes
- Ibrahim Afellay