Raphinha made it two goals in two matches as Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 1-0 on Saturday in their Las Vegas Clasico.
Raphinha, signed from Premier League Leeds United earlier this month for around $60 million, followed up his debut in a 6-0 thrashing of Inter Miami with the lone goal of the high-profile clash at Allegiant Stadium, the $1.97 billion, 65,000-seat home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.
The Brazilian was perfectly placed to intercept an ill-advised pass from Real’s Eder Militao along the top of the area.
After one touch to settle, he lashed a left-footed shot over Thibaut Courtois into the top right corner of the net to put Barcelona up 1-0 in the 27th minute
The fourth edition of the Clasico to be played outside of Spain – the second ever held in the United States – featured all the intensity of the long rivalry.
Real Madrid, playing their first pre-season friendly, nearly opened the scoring in the 18th minute but Federico Valverde was denied by the post in the 18th minute, seizing the ball after a poor clearance by Jordi Alba and blasting a volley from 25 yards out that beat Marc-Andre Ter Stegen only for the upright to intervene.
Two minutes later, it was Barcelona who saw a chance get away when Eduardo Camavinga lost possession to Pedri in front of Real’s goal. Pedri found Fati, who pulled Real keeper Thibaut Courtois off his line but put his shot just wide of the far post.
Overall, it was Barcelona – energized by the debut of Polish striker Robert Lewandowski after his move from Bayern Munich – who controlled the tempo in the first half against the reigning Champions League and La Liga title holders.
The first half ended on a testy note after Jordi Alba’s sliding tackle on Militao that earned a yellow card.
Some jawing and shoving escalated, with players having to step in and separate Madrid newcomer Antonio Rudiger and Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo.
Lewandowski’s night ended without a goal as he departed at the half, replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as part of a raft of changes at the midpoint.
Aubameyang had a chance just two minutes into the second half with a header from the center of the area off a cross by Raphinha but missed it left.
A back and forth between substitute Marco Asensio and defender Lucas Vazquez gave Real Madrid a golden opportunity in the 59th minute, but after Vazquez played the ball back to Asensio in front of goal, he pulled his shot wide.
They pressed desperately in the closing minutes for an equalizer, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side clearly missed French star Karim Benzema, who was granted an extended holiday by the club and sat out the contest after joining up with his teammates in Los Angeles just days before.
Real Madrid continue their US tour on Tuesday against Mexico’s Club America at San Francisco’s Oracle Park baseball venue while Barcelona take on Italian giants Juventus in Dallas on the same night.
Both play again on July 30, when Barcelona take on Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls and Real Madrid play Juventus. (AFP)