Garcia sinks Argentina
Real Betis striker on target as Catalonia win 4-2 in Camp Nou
Last Updated: 22/12/09 11:13pm
Exciting encounter: Xavi and Javier Pastore tussle for the ball
Sergio Garcia netted a brace as Catalonia beat an experimental Argentina side 4-2 in their friendly encounter at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.
Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic and Espanyol midfielder Moises Hurtado joined the Real Betis striker on the scoresheet for Johan Cruyff's side.
The South American side replied via debutant Javier Pastore and Benfica midfielder Angel Di Maria, but the visitors always looked second best.
Argentina coach Diego Maradona is still serving his two-month ban from Fifa for his expletive-laden rant in the aftermath of his side's qualification for the World Cup following their hard-fought 1-0 win in Uruguay in October.
But Maradona was watching on from the stands and probably had a hand in team selection.
It was an experimental Argentinean line-up, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano all excluded.
There were several stars on show, though, including Gonzalo Higuain, Fernando Gago, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Di Maria.
Meanwhile, Catalonia coach Cruyff opted for a strong side in his first match in charge.
He was returning to management after a 10-year absence at the stadium he graced as both a player and a coach.
The Dutch legend including six Barcelona players, with Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Bojan Krkic and Gerard Pique all starting.
The latter was included in a defensive midfield role, while there was also a place in the side for former Barca defender Oleguer, now with Ajax.
Catalonia started brightly and had the first chance of the match, when Sergio Garcia set up Bojan and the young Barca striker saw his effort parried by Diego Pozo.
Argentina threatened through Palermo forward Pastore, making his debut in blue and white, after that.
But Catalonia, playing Cruyff's hybrid Ajax-school 4-3-3, were still dominating.
Cruyff applied that formation to his Barcelona side in the 90s and it has led the club to so much success in recent years.
Xavi, a youth team player back then, was pulling the strings in midfield, and the Barca midfielder almost opened the scoring after 32 minutes, when he crashed a thunderous drive just over the crossbar.
Shortly afterwards, Argentina appealed for a penalty when Di Maria went down under a challenge from Valdes, but the referee waved play on.
And just as it looked as if the first half would finish goalless, Catalonia took the lead, when Espanyol midfielder Joan Verdu crossed for Garcia to crash an unstoppable header past Pozo.
Argentina had not looked particularly interested up until now, and the South Americans went two down after 55 minutes, when Bojan got behind the visitors' static defence and slotted clinically past Pozo.
Pastore got Argentina back in it when he rifled a glorious shot past Valdes 10 minutes later.
But Espanyol defender Nico Pareja then brought down club team-mate Ferran Corominas and Garcia stepped up to slot home his second of the night from the penalty spot with 20 minutes left.
Di Maria responded for Argentina with a precise angled drive five minutes later, but Catalonia duly went 4-2 up through Moises Hurtado a minute later, the Espanyol midfielder crashing a header past Pozo following a cross from club team-mate Verdu.
And that is how it finished at the Camp Nou, but Maradona will have been content to see some of his fringe players enjoy a rare run-out against quality opposition.