The 26-year-old weaved his way past three Croatian players before rifling the ball in off the crossbar from eight yards out
Neymar marked his eagerly-anticipated return from injury with a fabulous solo goal for Brazil against Croatia on Sunday
The routine was just as you will have remembered: head bowed, hands pointing to heaven before blessing himself then breaking into a sprint.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward managed 45 minutes after recovering from surgery on a fractured metatarsal. It had been 98 days since Neymar had last gone through that custom before a game but here he was on the side of the pitch, bedecked in that famous, shimmering No 10 shirt of Brazil, ready for action just in time for the World Cup.
Neymar has been prolific on Instagram since breaking his metatarsal on February 25 – there have been 60 posts to his 93million followers, along with a raft of short video stories – but was he physically ready to be prolific in Russia? It was the only question that needed answering at Anfield.
He had eased himself into this friendly with Croatia, with a couple of routine passes and one shot that was comfortably gathered by Danijel Subasic but then, in the 69th minute, the world’s most expensive footballer came to life in the most glorious fashion.
After receiving a pass from Philippe Coutinho, Neymar began to dance into the area. His touch was sure, his intent clear – two Croatia defenders were put on their backsides as he moved his hips, then the ball, one way then another – and his finish was emphatic.
From the corner of the six-yard box, he hoodwinked another red-and-white shirt before slamming a drive into the roof of the net in front of The Kop. How he enjoyed it, heading off at speed and jumping into the air before being engulfed by his team-mates.
This was a goal that screamed everything we love about Brazil yet, ironically, it didn’t even illicit the biggest cheer of the day – that was reserved for local hero Roberto Firmino’s injury-time strike to complete a 2-0 win.
Roberto Firmino delighted the home crowd in second-half stoppage time and sealed the victory with an impudent finish
Firmino celebrates his last-gasp goal to the delight of Liverpool fans after replacing Gabriel Jesus with half an hour left
Former Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho shields the ball away from Atletico’s Sime Vrsaljko on his return to Anfield
The 25-year-old was making his first return to Liverpool since leaving for Barcelona in a £142million deal back in January
Fans marked the occasion with Coutinho masks, which could be seen dotted around the stadium on Sunday
Manchester City forward Jesus battles with Croatia duo Milan Badelj and Vedran Corluka during the first half on Merseyside
City full-back Danilo tries to escape the attentions of Inter Milan forward Ivan Perisic on a sunny afternoon in the north west
Vrsaljko pursues Chelsea attacker Willian as Croatia captain and Champions League winner Luka Modric looks on
Real Madrid midfield partners Casemiro and Modric, both starters for Los Blancos in Kiev, go head-to-head for possession
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic, appointed to replace Ante Cacic in October 2017, issues instructions to his players
Vrsaljko competes in the air with Fernandinho, who was cautioned for a high boot during a feisty first-half affair
BRAZIL (4-3-3): Alisson; Danilo, Silva, Miranda (Marquinhos, 65), Marcelo (Filipe Luis, 60); Paulinho, Casemiro, Fernandinho (Neymar, 45); Willian (Taison, 82), Gabriel Jesus (Firmino, 60), Coutinho (Fred, 82)
Subs not used: Geromel, Douglas Costa, Cassio, Fagner, Ederson
Goals: Neymar, Firmino
CROATIA (4-2-3-1): Subasic; Vrsaljko (Jedvaj, 87), Lovren, Corluka (Caleta-Car, 52), Vida; Rakitic (Bradaric, 83), Badelj (Brozovic, 61); Modric (Kovacic, 58), Perisic, Rebic (Pjaca, 64); Kramaric
Subs not used: Strinic, L Kalinic, Mitrovic, N Kalinic, Mandzukic, Pivaric
Booked: Kramaric, Perisic, Rakitic
Referee: Michael Oliver