Barcelona 1-2 Chelsea: Abraham and Barkley strike on Griezmann's debut

By Sports Desk July 23, 2019

Antoine Griezmann made his Barcelona debut on Tuesday but was unable to prevent the LaLiga champions slipping to a 2-1 friendly defeat to Chelsea in Saitama.

World Cup winner Griezmann – who joined the club in a €120million move earlier this month – made little impact during his 45-minute appearance against Frank Lampard's side, who went in front through Tammy Abraham's 34th-minute goal.

Barcelona looked bright at the start of the second period before Ross Barkley's fine finish nine minutes from time sealed the win, despite Ivan Rakitic's late strike.

Chelsea continue their preparations for the 2019-20 season with a game against Championship side Reading on Sunday, while Barca take on Vissel Kobe – and their former player Andres Iniesta – a day earlier.

Barcelona could – and perhaps should – have gone ahead inside the opening minute but Oriol Busquets' header from eight yards sailed over Kepa Arrizabalaga's goal.

Abraham was equally wasteful in the 23rd minute, blazing a half-volley over from six yards after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had failed to hold Christian Pulisic's powerful strike.

The striker made up for that miss soon after, though, coolly rounding Ter Stegen and slotting into an empty net after Jorginho had cut out Sergio Busquets' sloppy pass on the edge of the penalty area.

Pulisic could have doubled their advantage five minutes before the interval but crashed a left-footed effort into the side netting, while a subdued Ousmane Dembele saw his low strike kept out by Kepa at the other end.

Barca were a team reborn after making 11 changes at the break, Rafinha, Carles Perez and Carles Alena all testing Kepa with low strikes in the opening stages of the second half.

Chelsea substitute Kenedy inexplicably headed well wide after latching onto Barkley's lofted pass but the England international made no mistake in the 81st minute, squeezing an effort inside Neto's right-hand post from 18 yards.

The Spanish side at least ended the game on a positive note, Rakitic thundering into the top corner from distance in stoppage time.

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    Previous Rossoneri stars will be in attendance at San Siro as Milan, who have won Serie A 18 times and the Champions League or European Cup on seven occasions, remember their fine history.

    The glory days appear an awfully long time ago given Milan started this round of fixtures 10th in the table with a return of 20 points from 15 games.

    Pioli's side have recorded back-to-back victories, though, and the head coach wants to make that three in a row on a special day for Milan.

    "Tomorrow's celebrations are just a reminder to the players that this is not just any club," Pioli told a news conference.

    "Tomorrow's game is very, very important; we get to honour a great history of this club, we have the chance to honour it if we play well and we win.

    "I'm not interested in anything after tomorrow at the moment; I'm solely focused on the game tomorrow. We'll be facing a team that play very good football, they have very gifted players especially up front, and so we need to be at our best."

    Pioli became Milan's third manager of 2019 when he was hired in October.

    The club have not qualified for the Champions League since finishing third in 2012-13 and Pioli knows he faces a challenge to restore Milan to the previous heights.

    "Milan – for Italian football, European football and world football – has been a top club," he added.

    "For a very long time it was one of the best clubs in the world with a winning spirit and incredible play. A very well-organised club, Milan was an example to follow for everyone.

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    "I hope to do well, but I don't know what I will be remembered for in the future. There are things I'd like to be remembered for, but this is not the right moment."

    Mattia Caldara, who is yet to feature for Milan in Serie A since joining in 2018 due to a knee injury, has been named in the squad for Sunday's game.

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    Luis Suarez scored one goal and made another as Ernesto Valverde's men, who had won their previous six games in all competitions, came from behind to lead at Anoeta.

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    Sociedad moved ahead after 12 minutes when Sergio Busquets was penalised for tugging Diego Llorente's shirt at a corner and Mikel Oyarzabal calmly sent Marc-Andre ter Stegen the wrong way from 12 yards.

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    Imanol Alguacil's men were again guilty of slack defending as Barca took the lead four minutes into the second half. A glorious lofted pass from the previously unimpressive Busquets put Lionel Messi clear and he selflessly squared the ball to leave Suarez with the simple task of finding an open goal.

    Griezmann and Gerard Pique came close to adding a third for Barca, but Sociedad soon hit back, Isak converting a simple rebound after Ter Stegen had needlessly parried a Nacho Monreal cross into the striker's path.

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    On-loan Barcelona playmaker Coutinho scored a hat-trick and laid on another for Robert Lewandowski, who continued his prolific campaign with a brace.

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    Rashica spurned his first opening of the contest, streaking clear of the Bayern defence only to lose his footing in the penalty area, but he atoned in the 24th minute - spinning into space on halfway and driving at Jerome Boateng to lash in a stunning long-range strike.

    Bremen goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka sharply denied Lewandowski and Coutinho, but the two attackers would decisively turn the game on the stroke of half-time.

    Coutinho tapped in at the far post from Serge Gnabry's low cross after Josh Kimmich's chipped pass opened Bremen up.

    Theodor Gebre Selassie was substituted after injuring his knee in the process of trying to stop the equaliser and the right-hand side of the visitors' defence was exposed as Coutinho played in Lewandowski to equalise in stoppage time.

    Bremen retained their threat on the break, with the livewire Rashica slicing wide after tearing at the Bayern defence, yet Coutinho put daylight between the teams after the hour, lobbing a bouncing ball from David Alaba over the helpless Pavlenka.

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