Barcelona overcome early loss of Cocu

Leicester City 0 Barcelona 1

The Premiership campaign is still a week away, but already Leicester have broken their attendance record at the Walker Stadium. A crowd of 32,086, four more than watched last season's duel with Wolves, saw Barcelona win a friendly last night that was competitive enough for Phillip Cocu to be sent off after 20 minutes.

Even without the Dutch international, last season's great under-achievers in the Spanish league managed the decisive thrust, Javier Saviola scoring shortly before half-time. Disappointed as their followers were, Leicester were clearly more concerned with integrating their 11 new signings than with the result.

Ten of Micky Adams' summer recruits received an outing, as did Frank Rijkaard's most high-profile capture, the Manchester United target Ronaldinho. Barcelona may be absent from this season's Champions' League but they remain among the most charismatic of clubs. A Leicester public that included Gary Lineker - who played for both teams - clearly shared the Brazilian's view in that respect.

They produced record receipts of more than £500,000 for Leicester's home of 12 months. The mood was buoyant anyway after promotion last May, but this most PR-conscious of clubs had come up with a novel ruse for drumming up the decibels.

A 77-year-old supporter, sweltering in navy frockcoat and white jodphurs, played the teams on to the pitch with a rousing rendition of the "Posthorn Gallop". This, however, was not a night for galloping of any kind, rather for bouts of patient possession football by Barcelona and intermittent flurries from Leicester.

Barça, with Ronaldinho dropping deep but often reminding those who routinely booed him why he has a World Cup winner's medal, quickly found their rhythm. The former Paris St-Germain player almost delivered a goal inside 10 minutes, only for Ian Walker to parry and Ben Thatcher to hack the loose ball to safety.

Ten minutes later, however, Cocu scythed down Craig Hignett as the newcomer from Blackburn raced clear on to Matt Elliott's towering header, Since he was the last defender, the referee, Alan Wiley, brandished the red card.

The 10 men struck in the 43rd minute. Ronaldinho found Saviola, who turned Steve Howey every which way before beating Walker for power with a drive from 20 yards. Howey, newly signed from Manchester City, almost conjured an instant equaliser but Xavi cleared his header off the line.

Adams and Rijkaard both rang the changes; Leicester even changing kits at half-time, advertising their "new" away strip - black with a blue sash as worn by their Fosse forerunners in the 19th century.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Walker (Coyne, 61); Sinclair (Curtis, h-t), Elliott (Taggart, 61), Thatcher (Impey, h-t), Rogers (Howey, 36); Gillespie, Scimeca, Izzet (Brooker, 67), Scowcroft (Nalis, h-t); Ferdinand (Deane, 61), Hignett (Dickov, h-t; Heath, 90).

Barcelona (4-4-1-1): Valdes (Jorquera, h-t; Valdes, 65); Puyol, Reiziger, Cocu, Oscar Lopez; Quaresma. (Ros, 83), Xavi, Gerard Lopez, Luis Enrique (Overmars, h-t); Ronaldinho (Andersson, 61); Saviola (Kluivert, h-t).

Referee: A Wiley (South Staffs).

Comments