Clasico thriller in Miami as Barca edge past Real

Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi doing what he does best, scoring against arch-rivals Real Madrid in the third minute of their ICC friendly. The teams will play each other again in two weeks at the Camp Nou in the Spanish Super Cup.
Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi doing what he does best, scoring against arch-rivals Real Madrid in the third minute of their ICC friendly. The teams will play each other again in two weeks at the Camp Nou in the Spanish Super Cup.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI • Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane insisted he is "not bothered" by Barcelona drawing first blood against his side ahead of the new season with a 3-2 victory in a pulsating Clasico friendly on Saturday in Miami.

The traditional rivals will meet again twice next month in the Spanish Super Cup, and this International Champions Cup (ICC) match set the entertainment bar high, with Barcelona maintaining their 100 per cent record in pre-season.

While Barcelona beat Juventus and Manchester United, Real's defeat means they end their pre-season tour of the United States without a victory.

The Spanish and European champions drew 1-1 with United and were beaten 4-1 by Manchester City.

"I don't care much about the defeat, it always hurts, but right now it's not the important thing," said Zidane.

"It's pre-season. The results haven't gone as hoped for but it will not change anything.

"The important thing is to be ready for Aug 8 (when Madrid face United in the European Super Cup).

"I'm not bothered by the defeat... We need to improve and change a few things."

Madrid were missing Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still on holiday, but both teams were close to full strength.

Former Athletic Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde, getting a taste of Clasico drama early in his career as Barcelona manager, selected Neymar despite speculation swirling over the Brazilian forward's future.

But it was talisman Lionel Messi who opened the scoring after three minutes. Ivan Rakitic then doubled the lead with a powerful drive from Neymar's low pass.

The sell-out crowd at the Hard Rock Stadium saw Real fight back, with Mateo Kovacic drilling home expertly, before Marco Asensio equalised in the 36th minute after a lightning break.

After a prolonged half-time interval with music, lights and fireworks, the game restarted at the same hectic pace. Gerard Pique put Barcelona ahead again in the 50th minute by flicking home Neymar's curling free-kick for the winner.

"My team started the game very well and I was happy with how they dominated proceedings," Valverde said. "We had many chances to extend the scoreline further...

"It was an opportunity to see how great these players are, especially Messi who was extraordinary."

It was the first time the teams had met in a friendly since 1991 and only the second time outside Spain.

They will meet again in two weeks at the Camp Nou, with real silverware at stake.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Clasico thriller in Miami as Barca edge past Real'. Print Edition | Subscribe