MIAMI: Raphinha marked his Barcelona debut with a goal and two assists as the Spanish giants kicked off their four match US tour with a comprehensive thrashing of David Beckham’s Inter Miami on Tuesday. The Brazilian, signed from Premier League Leeds United earlier this month for around $60 million, capped a promising first outing for his new club with a well taken first-half strike after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given the La Liga giants the lead at a sold-out Drv Pnk Stadium.
With fellow new signing Robert Lewandowski not involved ahead of his official unveiling in Miami on Wednesday – following his move from Bayern Munich – it was left to Raphinha, 25, to get the thousands of Barcelona fans in attendance excited about the future. “I was very happy to score my first goal and to play well and I hope that continues,” Raphinha said. “This is a system which favors me and I think I can really help the team moving forward.” The Brazilian was making his debut alongside fellow newcomer Andreas Christensen, who left Chelsea at the end of the season, and both were impressive against Phil Neville’s side.
Predictably, Barcelona dominated possession against the MLS team and former Arsenal forward Aubameyang went closest on 15 minutes to opening the deadlock when his close range effort flashed past the post. There was no denying him soon after when he coolly chipped the ball past Inter Miami keeper Nick Marsman following good work from Pedri and then Raphinha. And on 25 minutes it was Raphinha’s turn to get on the scoresheet, the Brazilian expertly guiding home an Alejandro Balde cross to double Barcelona’s lead.
It was completely one way traffic and Raphinha capped a good night’s work with another assist just before half-time, teeing up Ansu Fati who expertly smashed home from close range. “It was a big challenge for us, we were playing against world class players, it was a brilliant occasion to be part of but from a playing point of view, this was something to enjoy,” Neville said. “Some young players would have taken a lot away from an experience like that. This could be life changing for some of our team. We knew they would be on another level.
“We had to fight and accept they would have a lot of the ball and to keep it to 6-0 was a positive. This was a great learning experience for us but now we have to concentrate on MLS and a big game on Saturday against New York City.”
Both teams made a raft of changes after the interval but the outcome was never in doubt, Gavi’s excellent finish from a Memphis Depay corner making it four on 55 minutes before the Dutch forward produced a sublime turn and finish to make it 5-0. Ousmane Dembele’s driving run helped set up a sixth of the evening with 20 minutes remaining as Neville’s side were completely outclassed.
“Their movements are hard to track, they can mix it up and they are world class players and when you have so many on the pitch at one time, they make it very difficult for you,” said USA international DeAndre Yedlin. “That’s why they are one of the best teams in the world.” This was the first game of Barca’s US tour which will see them face Real Madrid, Juventus and the New York Red Bulls before the start of the new La Liga season on August 12th. – AFP