MIAMI (Florida): Barcelona drew first blood against Real Madrid ahead of the new season with a 3-2 victory in a pulsating Clasico friendly on Saturday in Miami.
The historic rivals will meet again twice in August in the Spanish Super Cup and this International Champions Cup match set the entertainment bar high, with Barca ending the eight-team pre-season friendly competition in the United States with the trophy after three wins out of three.
Lionel Messi, who put in a superb 64-minute performance, opened the scoring after just three minutes for the Catalan giants in front of 66,014 at the Hard Rock Stadium and when Ivan Rakitic doubled the lead soon after, the writing appeared to be on the wall for a sluggish Real side.
Yet Zinedine Zidaneâ€™s side quickly woke from their slumber and by the end of the first half, goals from Mateo Kovacic and Marco Asensio had pulled them level.
What followed was entertaining, often breathless friendly fare before Gerard Pique delivered Barcaâ€™s match winner â€” the Spanish international steering in a Neymar free-kick in the 50th minute.
â€œWe made a good start, generated some good opportunities,â€ Ernesto Valverde, getting a taste of Clasico drama early in his career as Barca manager, said.
â€œOverall, we did well trying to dominate the match. I expect the best from Messi and all the players but he is extraordinary and we are aiming to win all the titles this season.â€
While Barca had earlier beaten Juventus and Manchester United, Realâ€™s defeat means they end their pre-season tour of the United States without a victory.
They had a penalty shoot-out defeat to United before Manchester City also did a number on them in Los Angeles, running out 4-1 winners.
â€œI donâ€™t care much about the defeat, it always hurts but right now itâ€™s not the important thing,â€ said Zidane. â€œItâ€™s pre-season. The results havenâ€™t gone as hoped for but it will not change anything. The important thing is to be ready for August 8 [when Real face Manchester United in the European Super Cup].â€
In Saturdayâ€™s other International Champions Cup match, City posted a convincing 3-0 win over English Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur in Nashville, Tennessee.
John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Brahim Diaz scored for Manchester City, who were coming off a 4-1 win over Spain and European champions Real Madrid in the exhibition tournament in North America.
Jones opened the scoring at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFLâ€™s Tennessee Titans, with a glancing header in the 10th minute.
City had plenty of chances to increase their lead before Sterling made it 2-0 in the 72nd minute, and Diaz came off the bench to complete the scoring in injury time.