Hughes volley sinks Barcelona

Blackburn Rovers 3 Barcelona 2
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The Independent Football

No friendly can ever replicate the conditions of genuinely competitive action, but Blackburn's work-out against one of the game's most glamorous names was not without merit and much of the performance pleased their manager Graeme Souness.

Few teams will visit Ewood Park in the coming season with an armoury of talent to match that of the Catalonians and, while Kluivert, Overmars, Cocu et al may not have shown the application of the Lancastrians, Blackburn coped efficiently and effectively with the occasional displays of dazzling fluidity.

What most impressed was the solidity shown by the same back four which provided the foundations for last term's successful promotion campaign. Survival in the top-flight is Blackburn's initial target for the coming challenge, as long gone are the days when the club could compete with the biggest in the land for the signatures of the superstars. And if a keen defence is survival's underpinning factor, then it was a job well done.

Elsewhere, the lively David Dunn, a contender for man-of-the-match, combined the duties of shackling the considerable abilities of Xavi with acting as his side's playmaker-in-chief.

Just one of Blackburn's summer signings was on display but Corrado Grabbi, a £6.5m purchase from the Italian Serie B team Ternana, failed to impress. His replacement Mark Hughes, a former Barcelona player, eclipsed the young striker's performance with a vintage volley with his first touch to seal victory.

The visitors had taken the lead through Phillip Cocu, who reacted quickest after Rovers failed to clear their lines from a corner. Garry Flitcroft levelled with a fine header on the half-hour after Damien Duff finally got the better of Gabriel Garcia de la Torre to deliver an exquisite cross to the back-post.

Nathan Blake had the final touch of a goalmouth scramble after Roberto Bonano saved Dunn's penalty, while Xavi made no mistake with his spot-kick.

Carles Rexach, the Barcelona coach, was generous in his assessment of Blackburn's performance, saying they were motivated, direct and aggressive. "They maintain the spirit of the best of the English game," he added.

Souness also declared himself satisfied with his side's efforts. ''We were well-organised, which is how we managed to win the game, and we spent a lot of time without the ball which is something we need to get used to. This season we'll have to show a great deal of patience and this game was good practice for that.''

Goals: Cocu (18) 0-1; Flitcroft (29) 1-1; Blake (42) 2-1; Hernandez (pen 75) 2-2; Hughes (80) 3-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Curtis, Berg (Taylor, 79), Short, Bjornebye; Gillespie (Hignett, 82), Dunn, Flitcroft (Mahon, h-t), Duff; Blake (Bent, 62), Grabbi (Hughes, 79). Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Greer.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Bonano; De la Torre (Puyol, h-t), Christanval, Andersson (Anderson, h-t), Reiziger; Luis Enrique (Rochemback, h-t), Xavi, Cocu; Geovanni (Saviola, h-t), Kluivert, Overmars (Trashorras, 60). Substitutes not used: Sergi, Reina (gk).

Referee: M Halsey (Manchester).

Attendance: 24,159.

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