Neymar rescues Barca with debut competitive strike
BARCELONA - Brazilian forward Neymar came off the bench to head his first competitive goal for Barcelona and rescue a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday.
David Villa struck a superb 12th-minute volley against the club he left in the close season to put Atletico ahead in the two-legged showpiece that pits last term's league champions Barca against the King's Cup winners.
On a sweltering night at the Calderon, Barca struggled to create chances for an equaliser against a typically resolute Atletico defence, with World Player of the Year Lionel Messi unusually anonymous.
The Argentina forward was replaced by Cesc Fabregas at the break as a precaution after picking up a problem in his left thigh muscle before Neymar made a near-immediate impact after coming on for Pedro.
The 21-year-old sped in unmarked at the far post and leaped to nod home a cross from compatriot Daniel Alves for a 66th minute leveller.
He had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes and it was his first goal in a competitive match since a high-profile move from Santos.
"If they had told us what his first goal in an official game was going to be we would not have expected a header," Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster TVE.
"Neymar is a player of great quality and we will give him time to adapt," added the former Barca and Spain goalkeeper.
Zubizarreta said Messi's injury appeared to be the result of bruising and the club said on their website he would be having more tests on Thursday.
The return leg of the Super Cup is at Barca's Nou Camp stadium next Wednesday. (Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Nick Mulvenney)