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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 8, 2012

United pay the penalty

Manchester United paid the price for some poor spot-kicks as they went down to a penalty shootout defeat in a pre-season friendly with Barcelona in Gothenburg.

• Fergie hopes for RVP deal

With the game finishing 0-0 after 90 minutes, the contest was decided by what was supposed to be a three-player shootout, but it didn't get that far as Nani and Ashley Young both failed to convert their efforts, allowing former United defender Gerard Pique to seal victory after Xavi had also scored.

The opening stages were drab, certainly for a Red Devils outfit who were outplayed for long periods by a Barca team who have beaten them in two of the past four Champions League finals.

As ever, Lionel Messi was behind so many of the Catalans' best moves. The brilliant Argentina star only just failed to get on the end of Andres Iniesta's delicate early pass beyond the Red Devils defence and he was marginally offside when David de Gea blocked a close-range effort.

It was soon apparent though that, with Antonio Valencia again asked to occupy a full-back berth, Cristian Tello would find plenty of room down the flank. Messi rolled one pass that the 20-year-old screwed wide and Iniesta set up another chance that he drilled into Rio Ferdinand.

Amid this, Paul Scholes picked up a yellow card for a lunge on Sergio Busquets that sent the midfielder sprawling.

It wasn't particularly impressive from Sir Alex Ferguson's men, although they did almost profit when Victor Valdes got his angles all wrong attempt to clear an Ashley Young corner and almost turned the ball into his own net.

The drama came in the final minute of the half though, when Tello slid into Nani to concede a needless penalty. Wayne Rooney expected to bury it. Instead Valdes palmed the shot away, and Rooney inexplicably sent the rebound wide with a mis-hit left-footed effort.

Among the mass of half-time replacements were Shinji Kagawa and Jose Manuel Pinto, and the United new-boy and Barcelona reserve keeper were soon in direct opposition, with Pinto coming out on top each time.

The first was a precise shot for the corner, which Pinto did well to reach. The second was more speculative, from a ridiculously acute angle, with would have beaten Pinto had he not been alive to the danger.

Barca's enormous strength in depth was soon in evidence though as Euro 2012 winners Cesc Fabregas and Xavi began to exert their influence.

Alexis Sanchez was denied by De Gea, who then produced a brilliant save to keep out Pedro's stooping header. It may have been a friendly but Ferguson was off his bench to complain when Busquets pulled Nani back as the winger was about to break clear. As Nani lashed out in retaliation, both men were cautioned.

The introduction of Nick Powell was another reminder of how far the 18-year-old has come since leaving Crewe at the end of last season.

A three-shot shootout had already been planned in the event of a draw. In the end, only two were required.

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