Barcelona beats Madrid in El Cla­sico Mi­ami

West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY MATTHEW DEFRANKS

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.

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