Suarez, Neymar play 1st game since WCup exits
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Luis Suarez and Neymar played their first match since their memorable exits from the World Cup on Monday, with the Brazil star scoring two goals to help Barcelona rout Mexican champion Leon 6-0 in a preseason friendly at Camp Nou.
The last time Suarez played he infamously bit an Italian opponent at the World Cup, adding a four-month ban from competitive matches to his growing list of punishments for misconduct.
Barcelona’s fans, however, appeared ready to give Suarez yet another chance. Suarez, who transferred to Barcelona from Liverpool after the World Cup, was cheered by his new fans during the team’s presentation and went on as a substitute in the 75th minute to another round of applause.
The friendly was likely the last match Suarez will play before his ban runs out on Oct. 25.
Neymar hadn’t played since fracturing a vertebra during the World Cup on July 4, ruling him out of the rest of the tournament. He was deemed fit to play hours before the friendly and showed no signs of the injury.
Neymar set up Lionel Messi’s third-minute opener before adding goals in the 12th and 44th. He was substituted at halftime before Barcelona youth forwards Munir El Haddadi scored in the 54th and the 77th and Sandro Ramirez added another in the 89th.
“We have a team with incredible potential,” said Barcelona’s new coach Luis Enrique. “It isn’t very difficult when players of the talent of (Messi and Neymar) work together.”
Suarez and Neymar were both greeted warmly when introduced along with the rest of their teammates. The Uruguay forward even received a smattering of “Suarez! Suarez!” from some supporters, whose enthusiasm for the new signing was only exceeded by that shown for Messi.
While Neymar shone in his return, Suarez was limited to just a few touches of the ball in his 15 minutes. He had his first practice with Barcelona on Friday, a day after the Court of Arbitration for Sport softened his ban.
Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta said Suarez would use his time away from the pitch to learn Barcelona’s particular pass-happy style of play in training.
“We are going to leave him in peace so he can integrate with the group, with our team, and can get to know how we play, and how, considering his qualities, he can help,” Zubizarreta said. “When he comes back, we want him at 100 percent. That’s the plan.”
Both of Barcelona high-profile’s forwards featured in two of the most remarkable moments of this summer’s World Cup.
Neymar was on the receiving end of a collision with Colombia defender Juan Camillo Zuniga in a 2-1 quarterfinal win that left him writhing in pain with a fractured back.
Suarez, on the other hand, was the aggressor when he sunk his teeth into Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder on June 24, earning the bad-tempered Uruguayan his third career suspension for biting an opponent.
On Thursday, the CAS lessened his FIFA-imposed suspension to allow Suarez to practice and play friendlies for Barcelona following his €97-million ($130 million) move.
Barcelona opens the Spanish league against Elche on Sunday.