Neto, Rakitic team up for Barcelona win
Published : Thursday, 8 August, 2019 at 10:45 AM Count : 251
Barcelona overcame a rough first half to claim a 2-1 victory over Napoli in an international friendly on Wednesday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida.
Sergio Busquets scored a rare goal to open the scoring in what was a subpar first 45 minutes for the Catalonians, but they were stronger in the second half and took the win thanks to a late Ivan Rakitic strike, reports Marca.
For the first time, Barcelona fans got a look at Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann starting up front together. Otherwise, outside of Busquets and Rakitic, plus centre-back Samuel Umtiti, it was a youth-heavy starting XI from coach Ernesto Valverde.
There were early chances for both Suarez and Griezmann yet neither could find the target, but it was Napoli who started to look the better side and Lorenzo Insigne looked set to break the deadlock but was denied by Neto.
Another chance fell to the Italians later on in the half with Spaniard Jose Callejon setting up Dries Mertens, only to see the Belgian steer his shot wide with the goal gaping wide open.
A goal would come in the first 45 minutes and it was from the least likely of sources, as Busquets, who has just a handful of goals in his career, collected a ball at the top of the area and swept in a right-footer for a 1-0 lead.
Napoli would find a deserved equaliser though and it came from Callejon, who was enjoying an excellent night on the right flank and dusted off Barcelona defender Junior Firpo before firing in with a bit of help from Umtiti's unsuccessful clearance.
Valverde made just two changes at half time, bringing off Suarez and Griezmann for Abel Ruiz and Rafinha, perhaps sending a message to the younger players that the first half was not good enough.
Barcelona showed more spunk to start the second half and slew of changes then came with 25 minutes to go, as Gerard Pique, Semedo, Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong all entered the fray.
It made for end-to-end stuff and Dembele was unlucky to have hit the post with a shot. Napoli forward Milik was sitting on a goal, yet Neto had other ideas and made a diving save.
Minutes later Milik had a header on a silver platter but chose to try to chest it in and missed, much to the dismay of his teammates.
Napoli would rue Milik's wastefulness as Rakitic pounced on a ball and rocketed in a shot to make it a 2-1 Barcelona lead, which held until the final whistle.
Goals: 1-0, min. 39: Busquets; 1-1, min. 42: Callejon; 2-1, min. 79: Rakitic.