FC Barcelona had itself something of a deer cull on Sunday night when it defeated Kashima Antlers 5-0 at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
Japan’s capital may be as far away from northern Spain as you can get but there was no doubting which side was favorite among the crowd of 55,251, and the Catalan side did not disappoint.
Brazilian midfielder Ronaldinho led the way with a masterful display in midfield, ably supported by Lodovic Giuly, playing wide on the right, and former Celtic striker Henrik Larsson.
The three were at the heart of Barcelona’s effort, with Giuly scoring two first-half goals and Larsson one, though the pair could have had more, both missing with early strikes, courtesy of pinpoint passes from Ronaldinho.
Barca coach Frank Rijkaard was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We were able to find our rhythm quickly through our speedy attacks,” he said.
Giuly opened the scoring in the 16th minute after the Kashima defenders failed to clear a corner. From the resulting scramble on the edge of the box, the ball was stubbed through to the diminutive striker who slipped it nonchalantly pass Hideaki Ozawa.
While it may have been slightly fortuitous, there was no doubting the class of Barca’s second and third goals.
Giuly was again the scorer in the 25th minute, latching onto a superb curled pass from Ronaldinho, that gave the 164-cm striker plenty of time to choose his spot, and five minutes later scorer turned provider as Giuly’s cross was met by a diving header from Larsson that gave Ozawa no chance.
With Rijkaard ringing the changes, Barca went slightly off the boil in the second half, though Larsson came desperately close with a fierce shot from just outside the box in the 65th minute sandwiched between a couple of headers that forced good saves from replacement ‘keeper Tetsu Sugiyama.
Parkhead’s loss is very much the Nou Camp’s gain, and the crowd showed its appreciation for the Swedish striker, giving him a standing ovation as he left the field in the 74th minute.
Three minutes later a mazy Ronaldinho run was eventually stopped by Sugiyama but the ball bounced kindly for Luis Garcia who scored Barca’s fourth.
With Ronaldinho showing his full repertoire, there was only ever one team in it, and although the Brazilian was denied the goal his performance so justly deserved, he provided the icing on the cake by unselfishly off-loading to Messi to complete Barca’s scoring in the 88th minute.
Easy for Real
The Associated Press
Brazilian striker Ronaldo scored one goal and created another Sunday in Real Madrid’s 4-0 rout of Japan’s Tokyo Verdy in a preseason friendly match.
In the northern city of Niigata, Spanish champion Valencia fell to Abirex Niigata 5-2.
Zinedine Zidane started the scoring for Real in style, in the eighth minute.
Taking a pass from Ronaldo on the left flank, Zidane spun past two defenders on the edge of the penalty area and sent goalkeeper Yoshinari Takagi the wrong way with a feint before casually stroking the ball into the net.
In the 34th minute, David Beckham intercepted a pass in midfield and chipped a through ball to Ronaldo. As Takagi emerged from his net, Ronaldo flicked the ball past him for the second goal.
Luis Figo and Fernando Morientes completed the scoring for Real late in the second half.
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