Barcelona beats Madrid in El Clasico Miami
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — For one night in Miami, soccer was king. In the building crescendo of Saturday night’s preseason El Clasico Miami, in the swelling hype surrounding one of the world’s best rivalries, and in FC Barcelona’s 3-2 win over Real Madrid, the sport owned its massive stage.
The two Spanish soccer titans transformed Hard Rock Stadium into a blend of charisma and unpredictability, first with Barcelona’s dominant start, then with Real Madrid’s steady comeback, and finishing with Barca’s winning second-half goal. The crowd of 66,014 witnessed the brilliant magic of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and the breakaway speed of Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio — inserted into the starting lineup in the absence of star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Gerard Pique scored off a Neymar free kick in the 50th minute to break a 2-2 tie, giving Barcelona a victory in the first Clasico ever played in the United States. The exhibition match in Miami was the first Real Madrid-Barcelona game played outside Spain in 35 years, causing ticket prices to skyrocket for the event and forcing fans to pay hundreds to gain entry.
Messi and Barcelona didn’t wait long to make sure they were entertained. In the game’s third minute, Sergio Busquets slotted a pass at the top of the box to Messi. Messi settled the ball, cut back onto his left foot and — surrounded by three Real Madrid defenders — took aim at goal. His shot ricocheted off a defender and looped over Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the opening tally.
It was Messi on perhaps the grandest preseason stage ever in soccer. It was the Argentine forward immediately stamping his seal on the game. It was him momentarily claiming the night that was supposed to be shared with his main rival.
Ronaldo, winner of three of the past four Ballon d’Or awards as the world best player, skipped the game due to a busy schedule that included this summer’s Confederations Cup, a promotional tour in Asia and a tax-fraud hearing on Monday.