ARLINGTON, Texas — A first-half header by forward David Villa and a last-minute strike from Seydou Keita was all FC Barcelona needed Saturday as the European champions closed out their participation in the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge with a 2-0 win over Mexican side Club América in the tournament finale at Cowboys Stadium.
Villa scored in his second consecutive match on a 24th-minute header and Keita knocked in an easy tap-in feet away from the goal line to help salvage a victory in the World Football Challenge for Barcelona, who fielded their starting XI to begin the match after dropping two previous results to Manchester United (2-1) and Chivas de Guadalajara (4-1).
Although the first half started with two early penalty kick appeals on both sides, which referee Ricardo Salazar did not acknowledge, Barcelona eventually imposed their possession style on the game – controlling the ball for 75 percent of the time – and the European champions enjoyed several scoring opportunities as a result.
First Xavi’s 13th-minute shot was deflected wide left and eight minutes later a lunging clearance by América right back Paul Aguilar prevented Gerard Piqué from getting a close-range shot on target.
Those chances were a prelude to the 24th-minute goal by Villa. Adriano easily sped by América left back Óscar Rojas and delivered the cross which Villa was all alone to head home with his marker, Jorge Reyes, overrunning the play.
Barcelona continued to exploit the right flank as América’s defenders failed to contain Villa, who fired shots off in the 29th, 31st and 43rd minutes. América goalkeeper Armando Navarrete had to come up with two big saves on the first two to prevent the 2010 World Cup leading scorer from getting on the board again.
The best look in the first half for América came at the half-hour mark, with forward Christian “Chucho” Benítez laying off a ball to an onrushing Juan Carlos Medina, whose shot with the outside of his right foot was saved low by Barcelona ‘keeper Víctor Valdés.
América manager Carlos Reinoso addressed the left back deficiencies by pushing back US international call-up Edgar Castillo from left midfield to left back. The move, combined with the second-half substitution of dangerous Barcelona right back Adriano, seemed to give the Mexican side more balance and allowed it to venture forward in attack, keeping Valdés busy in goal.
América captain Vicente Sánchez nearly capitalized on a wild back pass from Thiago Alcántara in the 50th minute and then he fired another blast seven minutes later, but Valdés was up to the challenge on both occasions. Valdés also came out of his penalty area to thwart a Benítez breakaway on the hour mark.
The match fizzled out in the second half until a late surge by América with two opportunities that fell to Benítez. The Ecuadorean international sent his left footed shot wide right in the 86th minute and then couldn’t get a clean shot off one minute later.
The misses were punished when second-half substitute Gerard Deulofue made an overpowering run down the left flank and flicked a cross that Keita knocked home between two defenders to round out the 2-0 final.
Barcelona, who wrap up their WFC participation with a win and two defeats, get ready for their first official competition of the season when they take on Real Madrid on Aug. 14 in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa.
América, held scoreless in three losses in the WFC, will return to Mexican league action next Saturday with a road game at Tigres UANL.
BAR – Villa (Adriano) 24’
BAR – Keita (Deulofue) 90’
CAUTION SUMMARY: Medina (AME) 45’, Busquets (BAR) 62’
FC Barcelona (4-4-2, left to right): Víctor Valdés (73’ Jordi Masip): Éric Abidal, Gerard Piqué (51’ Andreu Fontas), Sergio Busquets, Adriano Correia (46’ Jonathan dos Santos): Seydou Keita, Thiago Alcántara (90’ Marti Riverola), Xavi Hernández (capt.) (46’ Isaac Cuenca), Andrés Iniesta (66’ Sergio Gomez): #7 David Villa (77’ Carlos Carmona), 17 Pedro Rodríguez (76’ Gerard Deulofue)
Subs Not Used: Jose Manuel Pinto, Iván Balliu, Armando Lozano, Javier Espinosa
Manager: Josep Guardiola
Club America (4-4-2, left to right): Armando Navarrete (75’ Leonin Pineda): Óscar Rojas (46’ Miguel Layún), Jorge Reyes, Aquivaldo Mosquera, Paul Aguilar: Edgar Castillo, Jesús Molina, Daniel Montenegro (70’ Joaquín Martínez), Juan Carlos Medina (61’ Renato González): Christian Benítez, Vicente Sánchez (capt.) (58’ Isaac Acuña)
Subs Not Used: Carlos Valenzuela, Erik Pimentel, Jesús Leal, Daniel Márquez
Manager: Carlos Reinoso
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Assistant Referees: Kermit Quisenberry, Adam Garner
Fourth Official: Armando Villarreal