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It was a Gamper Trophy with a difference. It was not just about the football – it was also about the Camp Nou paying tribute to their guests, Chapecoense, the club that was hit by such tragedy in November.
The Brazilians have rebuilt since that horrific accident on the way to the Copa Sudamericana final in Colombia, and were a more than dignified opponent for the 52nd edition of the traditional curtain-raiser to the Barça season.
But with every respect and some more for the visitors, the outcome of this game was never likely to be anything other than a home win. And the Catalans produced a performance to be proud of in Ernesto Valverde’s first game in charge at the stadium.
Deulofeu opens early
The new manager opted to start with what largely resembled the regular starting eleven of the previous season, with Gerard Deulofeu joining Leo Messi and Luis Suárez in the frontline.
And the game was just six minutes old when the returnee was tapping home a Luis Suárez assist to put Barça a goal to the good. Five minutes after, man of the match Sergio Busquets fired a beauty into the top corner from long range. Barça had made their superiority show from the start.
Being August, there was an especially large presence of tourists in the Camp Nou and the main focus of their cell phone cameras was Leo Messi. The Argentinian didn’t disappoint, adding his name to the scoresheet when he converted a 1-2 with Deulofeu shortly before the half hour.
Ovation for Ruschel
But the biggest cheer of the half was reserved for Chapecoense’s Alan Ruschel, one of just three players that survived the air disaster nine months ago, after playing his first 30 minutes of active football since completing his recovery. What a stage on which to mark such an emotional comeback.
Rather than make wholesale changes, Valverde only brought on two fresh pairs of legs after the break, replacing Deulofeu with Denis Suárez and giving Jasper Cillessen a go between the sticks.
Luis Suárez made it four with a trademark finish from an angle, and following a twenty minute lull in the action, Denis Suárez extended the lead to five.
It wasn’t just the surnames that those two goals had in common. Both came off fabulous assists from Lionel Messi.
For the final quarter of an hour, Valverde decided to withdraw most of the heavyweight names and send on the bulk of the squad that had started on the bench - Arda Turan and Douglas being the only fit outfield players not to get a run-out.
That didn’t give us too much time for new signing Nelson Semedo to make his mark, but the Portuguese full back was on the receiving end of a penalty that Paco Alcácer was unable to convert.
All in all, a solid display from the blaugrana, who now have six days to prepare for the first official fixture of the season – Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup first leg against Real Madrid.
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