Ivan Rakitic Winner Powers Barcelona Past Napoli in 2019 Friendly

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IAugust 8, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 4: Ivan Rakitic of FC Barcelona during the Club Friendly   match between FC Barcelona v Arsenal at the Camp Nou on August 4, 2019 in Barcelona Spain (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

No Lionel Messi, no problem.   

Barcelona topped Napoli 2-1 Wednesday night in the first leg of their inaugural La Liga-Serie A Cup friendly at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

Messi suffered a Grade 1 right calf strain earlier this week that kept him sidelined, and Sergio Busquets was perhaps the unlikeliest candidate on the pitch to score in the Barcelona superstar's absence. Busquets earned a 1-0 lead when Riqui Puig found him in open space just inside the penalty arc. It was the 31-year-old midfielder's first score since Oct. 1, 2017, according to ESPN FC.

The opener was followed by an own goal by Barcelona center back Samuel Umtiti in the 42nd minute that served as an equalizer for Napoli. 

Both clubs had solid chances in the second half, including a missile from Barca's 22-year-old striker Ousmane Dembele in the 68th minute—two minutes after he subbed on for Carles Perez—that rang off the right post. Come the 79th minute, Ivan Rakitic finished what Dembele started.

The 31-year-old midfielder charged in toward the box to blast the game-winner into the net off the bounce:

Barcelona goalkeeper Neto saved a shot from Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik in the 85th minute and another by Simone Verdi in extra time to secure the victory.

Napoli kept the pressure on Barcelona throughout the match, but Barca survived at least in part because of Neto's performance. 

Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann both played the first half, and each managed two shots.

The result marked a third straight preseason victory for Barca, which last defeated Arsenal 2-1 Sunday at home in Camp Nou to claim the annual Joan Gamper Trophy.

While it was a club friendly, Barca should be encouraged by the result without an injured Messi ahead of La Liga's start on Aug. 17. According to the club's announcement, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's availability moving forward depends on his recovery. They did not give a timetable.

     

What's Next? 

Barcelona and Napoli will rematch for the second leg of the La Liga-Serie A Cup on Saturday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Related

    Barca Down 1-0 Within 1 Minute 😳

    Granada's Azeez with the goal 🎥

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Barca Down 1-0 Within 1 Minute 😳

    Granada's Azeez with the goal 🎥

    beIN SPORTS USA
    via beIN SPORTS USA

    Prem Winners and Losers

    🍿 Man City season ticket holders 😳 Sanchez Flores' horror start 👎 Marco Silva, Everton's top six chances

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Prem Winners and Losers

    🍿 Man City season ticket holders 😳 Sanchez Flores' horror start 👎 Marco Silva, Everton's top six chances

    Rob Blanchette
    via Bleacher Report

    Highlights: Man City Hit 8 Past Watford 🎥

    Hat trick from Bernardo Silva 🎩

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Highlights: Man City Hit 8 Past Watford 🎥

    Hat trick from Bernardo Silva 🎩

    NBC Sports
    via YouTube

    Ansu Fati's Father: I Wanted My Son Playing for Portugal

    FC Barcelona logo
    FC Barcelona

    Ansu Fati's Father: I Wanted My Son Playing for Portugal

    MARCA in English
    via MARCA in English