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Luis Enrique's team brought pre-season to its conclusion at Camp Nou with a resounding victory over Italian AS Roma in the Gamper Trophy game. First half goals from Neymar and Leo Messi and another in the second half from Rakitic served to set the blaugranes on track for when silverware will be at stake, beginning with next Tuesday's trip to Tiblisi to take on Sevilla in the European Super Cup.
Leo Messi, Neymar, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano all came straight into the side for the first time in pre-season against Roma, undoubtedly with coach Luis Enrique keen to give them some playing time ahead of the trip to Georgia. Claudio Bravo, the last player to return to training after his successful Copa América campaign with Chile, was left on the bench with Ter Stegen starting between the posts. Despite having been back with the squad less than a week, Leo Messi looked as sharp as ever in the opening minutes. The Argentine forced Roma keeper Szcesny into action not once but twice in the opening six minutes.
Messi not to be denied
Messi was to have his reward eventually. Four minutes before the break, South Americans Alves, Luis Suárez and Neymar combined beautifully in the box to tee up Messi who drilled his shot home with typical precision. That goal put Barça 2-0 at half time as in the 26th minute Neymar walked the ball over the line to open the scoring following a first time cross from the left by Jérémy Mathieu.
Roma had offered little to spoil the party atmosphere at Camp Nou in the first half, new signing Szcesny being the outstanding performer for the Italians making several saves to keep the scoreline respectable at the break. The second half followed the same pattern with Jordi Alba, who had come on to replace Vermaelen, coming close to making it 3-0 with a powerful cross shot.
Wave of substitutions
Both sides made wholesale changes during the second period which served to break up the rhythm of Barça in particular. Luis Enrique decided that an hour was enough for the likes of Messi and Neymar, making eight substitutions at the same time. Roma coach Rudi Garcia threw on club legend Francesco Totti for the last half an hour, more a gesture than a real attempt to turns things around.
However, a third was not long in coming for the blaugranes, and what a goal it was. Ivan Rakitic, the only blaugrana to play all 90 minutes on the night, picked the ball up outside the box and crashed a spectacular effort into the top corner past Roma keeper De Sanctis.
Pedro brought a good save from De Sanctis, who took over Szcesny's role of the first half, that of preventing the home side heading towards double figures. Another good stop from Rakitic kept the final score at 3-0 to a Barça side who will take confidence from having cruised past quality opposition in the 50th edition of the Joan Gamper Trophy.
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