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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug, 12, 2006

Ronaldinho and Messi shine for Barcelona

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho scored two goals and Lionel Messi added a goal and two assists as FC Barcelona beat the New York Red Bulls 4-1 in an international exhibition match Saturday night at Giants Stadium.

Barcelona got its first goal in the 13th minute, 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 FC Barcelona's U.S. tour. The Spanish club is one of the world's most popular soccer teams with Ronadinho, 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 tie. Barcelona also tied Club America of Mexico in Houston Wednesday, 4-4.

The Red Bulls tied Saturday's game in the 39th minute, when Ronaldinho gave the ball away to Dema Kovalenko in his own zone. 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 tied 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 U.S. team 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."

Eleven minutes later, Messi got his score by drawing Conway out of the goal, then shaking past 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 an exhibition, FC Barcelona head 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, and New York's bright spot was the play of Meola, who made five acrobatic stops in the first half on his way to six saves.

"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. "I was well aware that we were severely overmatched, but our players gained an invaluable experience playing against these top players and the overall speed of play."

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