Ivan Rakitic scored a crucial second-half goal to push Barcelona into a 2-1 victory against Napoli on Wednesday as the side from Italy were punished for missing several chances at the Hard Rock Stadium.
Rakitic fired home from the edge of the box with 10 minutes remaining to give Barca the advantage in the inaugural La Liga-Serie A cup. A Samuel Umtiti own goal had earlier cancelled out Sergio Busquets’ opener. The two sides meet in the second leg in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
With Lionel Messi missing Barca’s U.S. tour because of a calf injury, coach Ernesto Valverde selected a front two of Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, the two pairing for the first time since Griezman’s controversial move from Atletico. Apart from that, though, the coach Valverde picked an experimental side including B team players Riqui Puig and Carles Perez.
With the Serie A not starting until late August, Napoli looked the better side in the first half. After Antoine Griezmann had drawn a decent stop from Alex Meret and Suarez had fired over, the Italians began to exploit the weaknesses in the Barcelona backline.
Both Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens missed golden opportunities to put Napoli ahead, thanks to fine goal keeping displays from Neto.
The scoring was opened by Sergio Busquets with a fine shot from the edge of the box.
Napoli did not waste time to send a reply in front of the 57,062 crowd in Miami. Former Real Madrid forward Jose Callejon got the better of Junior Firpo and his goal-bound effort was turned into his own net by Samuel Umtiti.
Chances were also missed by Dembele for Barcelona and Milik for Napoli but it was Rakitic who would finally hit the target with 10 minutes to go, earning Barcelona a crucial win.
Both sides will meet on Saturday for the second leg. A game that promises to be more competitive as both teams edge closer to the start of the new campaign. It represents Barcelona’s last friendly of the summer and will be Valverde’s last chance to try things out before the La Liga curtain-raiser against Athletic Bilbao next weekend.