Neymar starpower on show in return from injury

June 3, 2018

The 26-year-old weaved his way past three Croatian players before rifling the ball in off the crossbar from eight yards out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 

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

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 

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

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

Vrsaljko competes in the air with Fernandinho, who was cautioned for a high boot during a feisty first-half affair

MATCH FACTS:

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

Booked: Fernandinho

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

SOURCE: dailymail.co.uk


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *