A-League All Stars v Barcelona: Garang Kuol shines as Barcelona made to work for win in front of packed house
The A-League All-Stars kept some of the world’s best honest in an exciting encounter in front of a packed house, who got to see Barcelona’s stars in the flesh.
They’re one of the biggest sporting institutions on the planet and they attracted a massive crowd to Stadium Australia but the A-League’s best have made Barcelona work hard for a win on their maiden trip to Australia.
The Spanish giants eventually ran out 3-2 victors over the A-League All-Stars on a night that was always going to be a celebration of football in Australia in the lead-up to the weekend’s A-League Grand Final, more than anything else.
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Over 70,000 thousand fans stepped out for the glamour affair, the largest crowd in Sydney since before the COVID pandemic, most of whom were draped in the famous red and blue of the Catalan titans.
They salivated over seeing massive world football names in the Barca manager Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Dani Alves, goalkeeper Ter Stegen and Ansu Fati to name but a few, in the flesh.
But the support for the Aussie boys, selected on merit based on their form over the course of the A-League season, was still apparent as they threatened Barcelona on several occasions and even took a shock 2-1 lead early in the second half.
The night was then lit up late by an Australian teen sensation in the Central Coast Mariners’ striker Garang Kuol who may have come close to booking himself a trip on Barcelona’s flight back to Spain, with a scintillating cameo off the bench that including a spectacular solo run and shot that was only inches away from a goal for the ages on Aussie soil.
“I can be there one day, that’s the main thing,” Kuol said post match about his learnings from the evening.
“This is my dream from when I was younger,” he continued.
In the end strikes five minutes apart in the 72nd and 77th minutes respectively from Adama Traore and Ansu Fati were the difference for Barcelona as they edged ahead late to ensure their trip ended with a victory.
“It doesn’t matter the game, we always want to win, that’s the motivation of this club,” Traore said.
“There are many fans here in Australia and we’re so happy to make them happy as well.”
Barcelona gained a first half lead through French marksman Ousmane Dembele but the All-Stars would spring a massive surprise by going in front early in the second half first through an equaliser from Olyroos winger Reno Piscopo and then Western Sydney Wanderers’ version of Adama Traore before Barcelona responded.
One of the nuances of the evening was watching a pair of Adama Traore’s go up against each other directly down Barcelona’s right flank all-season. The Western Sydney Wanderers version, their current fans player of the season held his own against his marauding muscular namesake from Spain all game though who said post-match it’s the first time that’s happened to him in his career despite the common nature of the name.
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There are few clubs on the planet with a better youth production record than Barcelona and in 17 year old dynamo, Gavi they have another gem to potentially build their attack around for years to come. The youngest player to ever represent the Spanish national team, he thrilled the big crowd with his quality in the opening half-hour including setting up Dembele for the opener.