Neymar helps Barcelona to 1-1 draw at Atletico, as Villa scores
APMADRID -- Neymar scored his first goal for Barcelona to secure a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday after Lionel Messi left the field injured in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
August 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Atletico's David Villa enjoyed the perfect start against his former club by netting a well-taken opener in the 12th minute. He left Barcelona following the arrival of Neymar in the offseason.
Neymar went on in the 59th with the Catalan club struggling in attack, and seven minutes later headed in the equalizer from a pass by Dani Alves.
The 21-year-old Neymar joined the Spanish champions from Brazilian club Santos for 57 million euros in June, the eighth most expensive signing in soccer history.
And after two appearances, both as a substitute as he recovers from anemia, he has his first goal.
“My first goal is a thrilling moment,” said Neymar. “I'm very happy because I went on and was able to help the team in a tough moment. We got a good result and now we need to finish it off at home.”
The return match will be played at Barcelona's Camp Nou next Wednesday after this weekend's league fixtures.
Villa opened the scoring with a beautiful goal that he helped create with his passing before finishing off with a right-foot volley. After Atletico had recovered the ball, Villa combined with Arda Turan on the left flank before slicing the Turkey midfielder's cross between diving goalkeeper Victor Valdes and the post.
“I'm happy because (scoring) is what I'm asked to do,” Villa said. “In the first half I was able to put one in. But the draw is a shame because we worked and ran hard against a very good team. Too bad we couldn't get a better result. The tie is wide open.”
In the first half, Atletico's packed midfield and physical play shut down Barcelona's attack that had cruised to a 7-0 win over Levante on Sunday, but against the Copa del Rey holders was limited to Pedro Rodriguez's timid shot before Villa's goal.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino may have insisted he wanted his team to recover its pressing defense from the early years of Pep Guardiola, but early on it was Diego Simeone's team that was more intense in closing in with multiple defenders.
“I'm proud of my players. We played a great first half,” said Simeone. “I would even dare to say that it was the one of the best first halves of a final that we have ever played.”
Messi was replaced at halftime with a left thigh problem. Although he showed no apparent signs on injury in the first 45 minutes, Cesc Fabregas took his place after the break.
On Sunday, Martino took Messi off after he had scored two goals in the league opener, but this time the club said his exit was “due to precaution for pain in the back of his left thigh caused by a knock.”
Messi had a muscle injury in his left leg last week and had a nagging right hamstring strain that ruled him out of several games at the end of last season.
Barcelona had begun to show some flashes in attack when Neymar replaced Pedro Rodriguez in the 59th, but it was Atletico forward Diego Costa who drew a save from Valdes moments later after a team buildup more reminiscent of the league champions' passing style.