Messi Strikes as Barca Beat Madrid to Win the ICC
Barcelona have won the International Champions Cup after edging bitter rivals, Real Madrid, 3-2 in a thrilling Clasico encounter in Miami.
The Catalans took the United States edition of the elite pre-season tournament thanks to goals from Lionel Messi, Ivan Rakitic and Gerard Pique to maintain their 100 per cent record in preseason thus far.
It was hardly a friendly as the bitter rivals clashed for only the second time outside of Spain with both managers naming their strongest XI to date.
An early injury scare for PSG target Neymar dampened the mood at the Hard Rock Stadium, but Messi magic soon lit up the arena in the third minute as the Barca talisman danced his way through the Madrid defence, cutting inside Luka Modric to rifle a deflected effort past Keylor Navas for the opener.
Los Blancos didn’t know what hit them four minutes later when Rakitic lashed onto a Neymar flicked pass with a low shot into the bottom corner to double Barca’s lead.
Stung into action by Barca’s early rampage, Zinedine Zidane’s men pulled one back through Mateo Kovacic after a mazy run from midfield with an angled drive to beat Kasper Cillessen from the edge of the area.
But Barca should have been out of sight on the balance of play as Neymar shot wide after being played through by Luis Suarez off a counter-attack, while Messi fired straight at Navas from six yards after leaving the Madrid defence trailing.
And against the run of play Madrid restored parity, Marco Asensio capitalising on a ferocious counter-attack just before half-time after Barca had bungled a corner-kick.
The intensity picked up at the restart and Barca reclaimed the lead five minutes in, Gerard Pique tapping in Neymar’s wonderfully floated free-kick with the Madrid defence watching.
It should have been a fourth for Barca in the 55th minute after Neymar rounded Navas but fired wide following some fancy work from Messi, while Suarez was denied by the Costa Rican moments later and Samuel Umtiti had an effort cleared off the line.
The tempo dropped after a wave of second-half substitutions, but Isco almost forced penalties with a curling effort that drew a fine save from Cillessen late on.