Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona: Gerard Pique’s second-half strike hands Ernesto Valverde’s side victoryBet365
Gerard Pique’s second-half strike proved to be the difference as Barcelona beat rivals Real Madrid 3-2 in the International Champions Cup in Miami.
In front of 66,014 fans at the Hard Rock Stadium, Barca raced into a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Lionel Messi (3) and Ivan Rakitic (6) before Real hit back through Mateo Kovacic (14) and Marco Asensio (36).
But Pique (50) proved to be the match-winner early in the second half, handing new Barca boss Ernesto Valverde victory in his first taste of El Clasico.
Barcelona, who included Neymar alongside Luis Suarez and Messi in their starting line-up, flew out of the traps, taking the lead in the third minute after Messi’s shot deflected up off Raphael Varane and over Keylor Navas.
Despite the speculation surrounding his future, Neymar looked up for the battle in Miami and played a key role in helping Barca extend their lead further three minutes later, squaring the ball for Suarez, who let the ball run on for Ivan Rakitic, and the Croatian midfielder powered a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.
In what was a frantic opening, Real pulled a goal back completely against the run of play when Kovacic’s strike beat the dive of Jasper Cillessen and found the bottom corner from 20 yards.
For a pre-season friendly there was a real intensity to the game and the challenges were flying in with Varane shown a yellow card for bringing down Neymar in full flow.
Moments before that Neymar, who was involved in a training ground bust-up with team-mate Nelson Semedoin earlier in the week, was lucky to avoid punishment of his own after catching Casemiro with a nasty-looking studs up challenge.
However, the Brazilian forward was back to doing what he does best in the 30th minute, running at Dani Carvajal before firing a shot inches wide of the far post.
Barca threatened again moments later with Andres Iniesta picking out Messi on the edge of the penalty area, but for once the Argentina international’s finishing let him down, firing the ball high over the crossbar.
The miss proved to be costly as Real were back on level terms in the 36th minute after a superb counter-attack. Asensio started the move, bursting into the Barca half before producing a cool finish after being played in by Kovacic.
However, Barca restored their lead five minutes into the second-half as Pique ran off the back of substitute Nacho, who replaced Sergio Ramos, to volley Neymar’s free-kick into the back of the net.
Neymar was involved again in the 55th minute, attempting to round Navas after being played in by Messi but the Brazilian failed to hit the target with a right-footed shot.
Seconds later, Barca created another opening for Neymar but again he failed to test Cillessen, curling his effort wide of the upright.
On what was a quiet evening for Gareth Bale, the Welshman finally showed a glimpse of his talent, bursting past substitute Nelson Semedo but his low shot was blocked by Cillessen.
Changes by both sides disrupted the flow of the second half but Real continued to push forward in search of a late equaliser.
And they almost found one. Valverde’s side needed Cillessen at his best to keep out Isco’s goal-bound shot, while Dani Ceballos connected with a powerful first-time strike in the closing stages only to see the ball flash agonisingly wide of the goal.
That proved to be their final chance as Barcelona held on to pick up the early bragging rights before the two sides meet again over two legs in the Spanish Super Cup on August 13 and August 16.Euro Soccer Bonus
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