Ney­mar daz­zles as Barca down Ju­ven­tus

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ney­mar gave Barcelona fans a daz­zling re­minder of what they could be about to lose on Satur­day, scor­ing twice as the Span­ish giants de­feated Ju­ven­tus 2-1 in a pre­sea­son friendly. The 25-year-old Brazil­ian su­per­star is at the cen­tre of fren­zied spec­u­la­tion link­ing him to a gar­gan­tuan, world record 222-mil­lioneuro ($256.8 mil­lion) trans­fer to Paris Saint-Ger­main.

Ney­mar had kept the guess­ing game about his fu­ture bub­bling away af­ter post­ing a pic­ture of him­self look­ing pen­sive on In­sta­gram on Fri­day. But there was lit­tle to sug­gest that the charis­matic striker is over­whelmed by the trans­fer saga as he pro­duced a be­witch­ing per­for­mance in front of a sell-out 82,104 crowd at the MetLife Sta­dium in New Jersey. The Brazil­ian broke clear af­ter only four min­utes but saw a tame shot from near the edge of the area drift away from the goal. Barcelona, with Lionel Messi start­ing, looked by far the more threat­en­ing of the two teams with Aleix Vi­dal and Messi both draw­ing early blocks from the Ju­ven­tus de­fence.

At the other end Mario Mandzu­kic might have given Juve the lead on 14 min­utes but his header from a Ste­fano Stu­raro cross went wide. The Ital­ians were made to rue Mandzu­kic’s profli­gacy a minute later when Ney­mar fired the Cata­lans into the lead, play­ing a clever one-two with Paco Al­cacer and drilling his fin­ish past Gian­luigi Buf­fon. Nine min­utes later and Ney­mar grabbed his sec­ond, pick­ing his way through a static Ju­ven­tus de­fence be­fore bury­ing a low shot be­yond Buf­fon once more. Ney­mar might have had a hat-trick three min­utes from half-time, when Messi floated a de­light­ful pass in be­hind the Juve de­fence for the Brazil­ian. Buf­fon on this oc­ca­sion was equal to the chal­lenge how­ever and blocked safely.

Barcelona rang the changes at half­time, with­draw­ing all but two of their start­ing line-up, Ney­mar ex­it­ing for Sergi Roberto and Arda Tu­ran re­plac­ing Messi.

Ju­ven­tus also made a raft of sub­sti­tu­tions which led to the in­tro­duc­tion of Paulo Dy­bala, Gon­zalo Higuain and Dou­glas Costa amongst oth­ers. The changes im­me­di­ately gave Juve a sharper at­tack­ing edge and Dy­bala was quick to test Adria Or­tola with a rasp­ing shot on 62 min­utes that was turned around for a cor­ner.

From the en­su­ing set­piece, Gior­gio Chiellini nod­ded home Dy­bala’s cross to make it 2-1. How­ever it was Barcelona who fin­ished the stronger of the two sides, with Luis Suarez re­peat­edly threat­en­ing to ex­tend the Span­ish side’s lead. Man of the mo­ment Ney­mar de­parted the sta­dium with­out ad­dress­ing re­porters, while Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde could only re­peat his de­sire to keep the Brazil­ian. “We want Ney­mar to be with us,” Valverde said. “We know his value on the pitch and what he brings to the locker room.”

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