Mon, Aug 14, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Barcelona down New York Red Bulls


FC Barcelona forward Santiago Ezquerro, left, and New York Red Bulls defender Marvell Wynne battle for control of the ball in a friendly soccer match at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Saturday.


Brazilian star Ronaldinho scored two goals and Lionel Messi added another on Saturday as Barcelona beat the New York Red Bulls 4-1 in a friendly.

Barcelona got its first goal in the 13th minute at Giants Stadium when Red Bulls defender Marvell Wynne pulled down Samuel Etoo in the penalty area. Ronaldinho's penalty kick beat goalkeeper Tony Meola to his left.

A sellout crowd of 79,002 came out to see the third and final match in Barcelona's US tour. The Spanish club is one of the world's most popular soccer teams with Ronaldinho, FIFA's World Player of the Year for the second straight season, and Messi, Argentina's top player.

The tour started last weekend in Los Angeles, where Barcelona played Chivas De Guadalajara to a 1-1 draw. Barcelona also drew with Club America of Mexico in Houston on Wednesday, 4-4.

The Red Bulls drew level in Saturday's game in the 39th minute, when Ronaldinho gave the ball away to Dema Kovalenko in his own half. Kovalenko then pushed the ball ahead to Edson Buddle, whose shot was deflected by Barcelona goalie Victor Valdes. But Youri Djorkaeff -- seeing his first action since leaving the Red Bulls for personal reasons nearly two months ago -- knocked in the rebound.

The score remained level until early in the second half, when Messi made a brilliant crossing pass to Ronaldinho, who got behind two defenders and beat sprawling reserve Red Bulls goalie Jon Conway in the 51st minute.

"Ronaldinho is truly a special player," said Bruce Arena, the Red Bulls' new head coach and sporting director and the former US coach.

"We all knew that before this game. He brings such a great attitude to the field. He's one of the finest players in the world," he said.

Eleven minutes later, Messi added to the goalscoring action by drawing Conway out of the goal and turning the keeper for a 3-1 lead. Barcelona's final goal came in the 87th minute, when Javier Saviola went unabated to the goal after receiving a pass from Messi.

Although the match was a friendly, Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard took it seriously.

"Every game is important to us because we always want to leave a good impression for the public," Rijkaard said. "I think the emotion was great and everyone enjoyed the game. I think the Red Bulls played a good game. They didn't come here just to defend us -- they came to participate and it turned out to be a good game for the spectators."

The Red Bulls struggled while playing for the first time under Arena. They did not manage a good scoring opportunity in the second half.

"This was a game that was a challenge for any team in the world. This is the best club team in the world last year, and they've gotten better," Arena said.

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