RIYADH: Fans of football and admirers of the Argentine legend, Diego Armando Maradona, got a treat in Riyadh on Tuesday as Barcelona and Boca Juniors played out a match in honor of one of the sports’ biggest icons at Marsool Park Stadium, in Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Maradona Cup.
The Argentine club got the better of their more illustrious opponents 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the match finished all square at 1-1.
The game marked just over a year since the passing of Maradona, who was laid to rest on Nov. 25. The two teams participating in Tuesday's event had met ten times previously in friendlies, with Boca having won five of those matches, Barcelona four, and one draw.
Both teams share close ties to the late Argentine, who donned the famous colors of both teams. Although Maradona struggled with injuries during his two-year spell at Barcelona his impact was evident, Barca coach Xavi Hernandez says he grew up idolizing him.
And during Maradona’s lifetime, he was a regular visitor to Boca's La Bombonera Stadium long after he hung up his boots and enjoyed his own private box at the ground.
(See how the action unfolded below, all times GMT)
19:05 - BOCA JUNIORS WIN THE MARADONA CUP! Perfect from the spot, the Argentine side beat Barcelona 4-2 in the penalty shootout and claim the trophy in Riyadh.
18:50 - FULL-TIME: The match comes to a close, with both sides desperate to find a late winner. But the referee blows his whistle and we are headed for a penalty shootout to decide the Maradona Cup...
18:40 - GOAL: The Argentinian club score! Boca Juniors' Oscar Zeballos equalizes in the 77th minute.
18:30 - More subsitutions for the Catalans, a double change for Barcelona sees Mika Marmol and Matheus Pereira replace Eric Garcia and Alvaro Sanz.
18:25 - YELLOW CARD: Carlos Izquirdoz receives a caution after a collision with Barca's Ricard Puig.
18:20 - Barcelona substitutions as Oscar Mingueza and Ilias Akomach take the place of Clément Lenglet and Yusuf Demir. Boca also make a change, as Exequel Zeballos comes on in the place of Edwin Cardona.
18:15 - GOAL: Barcelona score! And it's summer signing Ferran Jutgla with the goal.
18:05 - SECOND HALF: We are back underway in Riyadh.
17:50 - HALF-TIME: Barcelona will be disappointed not to have turned their dominance into a goal at Marsool Park as both teams head off the pitch for the interval.
17:45 - Barcelona’s Sergino Gianni Dest gets the crowd on their feet with a ball that just hits the side netting, and then just minutes later Jordan Campuzano fouls Yusuf Demir just outside the box giving Barcelona a free-kick and a chance to score the first goal of the game. But it results in a simple catch for Augustin Rossi.
17:40 - Local favorite Dani Alves gets his first shot on target, albeit a difficult one, but the Boca 'keeper Rossi Augustin is equal to it. We have a balanced game on our hands heading into half-time, as Barcelona begin to control possession, but Boca are keeping them honest and coming back at the Spanish giants.
17:30 - Ferran Jutgla, a former player for Barcelona's city rivals Espanyol, makes an unsuccessful attempt for the Catalans from the wing and his shot goes wide, resulting in a goal kick for Boca. Since joining Barcelona in July 2021, Jutgla has made 15 appearances for the team, scoring four goals and notching up as many assists.
17:20 - Boca Juniors are now putting the pressure on Barcelona, dominating possession after the first quarter of the match. Barcelona have had a couple more attempts on target after the Puig shot, but they only draw out routine saves from Boca goalkeeper Augustin.
17:15 - CLOSE: Barcelona create a great chance as Riqui Puig shoots from midfield, but his shot went just wide.
17:00 - KICK-OFF: And we are underway in Riyadh in the Maradona Cup, with an already tense back and forth. Fans cheered as Dani Alves made his first touch for Barcelona since his return.
16:55 - We are just moment away from kick-off as Barcelona and Boca Juniors walk out onto the pitch, to a rapturous reception from the fans who are now on the edge of their seats for the match ahead. We will observe the Saudi national anthem before kick-off...
16:35 - Both teams have now released their starting XIs for the Maradona Cup clash, which kicks off in around 25 minutes.
16:15 - Boca Juniors players are out on the Marsool Stadium pitch for their warm up...
15:45 - Cristian Pavón stands out tonight for Boca Juniors, the 25-year-old striker is key for his speed and ability to champion on the attack. Sebastián Battaglia, who coaches Boca, will be looking to end the year with a victory to pay tribute to one of their greatest idols.
Meanwhile, after a less than explosive start under new manager Xavi, Barcelona will be hoping to boost their confidence with a win.
15:20 - The season so far has been difficult for the Barcelona manager — inheriting the team mid-season and trying to impose his tactics in a short period of time as he seeks to end the run of poor form that has resulted in Barcelona dropping down the La Liga table. Riddled with injuries and a grueling upcoming schedule, Xavi will use this game to try and keep the first-team players as fit as possible as they prepare to embark on their first Europa League campaign since 17 years ago when it was still dubbed the UEFA Cup. The Catalans will have to fight past Napoli for the right to advance in the Europa League, as their string of bad luck continues as they were paired with one of the toughest teams left in the competition.
Dani Alves plays his first game tonight since returning to Barcelona. The 38-year-old Barca legend plans to play his heart out with his teammates, and following his debut tonight will then be registered in January, when he can start featuring in official competitions, with the hope of adding to his stacked trophy cabinet.