Barcelona had to come from behind to steal a 2-1 win against Estudiantes in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. Pedro netted an 89th minute equaliser to cancel out Mauro Boselli’s surprise opener, but Lionel Messi struck in the second period of extra-time to etch the Catalan behemoths’ name into the record books.
Barcelona began in their usual manner, pushing forward from the first whistle, with Messi and Dani Alves combining well down the right flank early on.
But just as it was in the semi-final against Atlante, the Spaniards’ yawning defence was exposed after just four minutes when Juan Veron lifted a gorgeous through ball over the backline for Enzo Perez, but Victor Valdes dashed off his line just in time to smother the ball.
Barca had their first opening on eight minutes when Alves’ through ball was touched on by Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Xavi, but the playmaker decided to square it to the backpost for Thierry Henry instead of going for the shot, and ‘Titi’ could only watch the ball trickle out of play at the byline.
Clear cut chances were hard to come by as both sides battled for supremacy in midfield. On 27 minutes, Veron tried his luck from distance when he picked up Leandro Benitez’s delivery from a corner and drilled in a searing half volley from angle, but it flew wide of Valdes’ right post.
Xavi then thought he had earned himself a penalty when he ran onto Messi’s through pass but as he tried to flick it past the on-rushing Albil, he was felt by the shot-stopper, but the referee only signalled for a goalkick.
But on 37 minutes, completely against the run of play, Los Pincharratas surged into the lead. Juan Diaz floated in a perfectly weighted cross from the left and Mauro Boselli ghosted in between Eric Abidal and Carles Puyol to thump a bullet header past a hapless Valdes.
Barcelona responded with Ibrahimovic attempting a ambitious bicycle kick from an indirect Messi free kick, but was marginally beaten to the ball by Albil. Frustration began to show in the faces of the European champions as they continually struggled to find a way to break down the sturdy Estudiantes defence, as the Copa Libertadores winners marched back into the dressing at the break with a deserved 1-0 lead.
Pep Guardiola introduced Pedro for Seydou Keita at the start of the second half, but it was Ibrahimovic who almost equalised for Barca when he darted into the box and skipped past Desabato but his low shot across the face of goal bobbled agonisingly wide.
Around the hour mark, Pedro was twice gifted a clear scoring chance right in front of goal when he ran onto a cross from the left but on both occasions, he failed to make clean contact with the ball.
Ten minutes later, Pedro again had the best opportunity to restore parity when he picked up Xavi’s through pass, spun past a defender and charged into the box but his shot from angle was blocked by Albil’s trailing leg.
Ibrahimovic had an even better chance on 78 minutes when he found space inside the box to meet Xavi’s brilliantly lofted cross but somehow headed wide from six yards out.
The incessant pressure paid off two minutes from time when the Estudiantes defence lost their concentration and Barca drew level. Pique headed on a high ball from Ibrahimovic to Pedro, who found himself completely unmarked inside the box and the youngster cleverly looped a header over Albil to send the game into extra-time.
Barcelona came firing out of the blocks and Messi first saw an early free kick dip agonisingly over the bar. The Argentine then fired wide from close range after being teed up by Ibrahimovic. The Swede himself then had an excellent chance in the 102nd minute when he was put through by Jeffren, but blasted his shot high and wide.
The South Americans had nothing left in the tank in attack for the final 15 minutes of extra time. But it was their defence who suffered another lapse in concentration as the Europeans finally went in front in the 110th minute. Alves’ pin-point cross picked out Messi, who found himself unattended inside the box as he coolly chested the ball past a despairing Albil from three yards out.
There was one last drama a minute into injury time of extra time when Veron swept in a free kick and Desabato rose high inside the crowded box but sent his glancing header inches wide of Valdes’ left post.
That was the last action of the game and of the tournament as Barcelona held on to claim a historic sixth title this year alone as they return to Spain as the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup champions.
KS Leong, Goal.com