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Football | Pre-Season

Neymar with Cesc Fabregas © Gallo Images

Neymar bags first Barca goal in Thai rout



Brazilian wonderkid Neymar scored his first goal in Barcelona colours as the Catalan giants swatted aside Thailand 1-7 in a friendly in Bangkok on Wednesday.

Spain international Pedro notched a neat hat-trick, while Argentine superstar Lionel Messi scored a brace – including one from the penalty spot – in a first half appearance that draw screams of adulation from the near 50 000-capacity crowd at Bangkok's Rajamangala stadium.

Alexis Sanchez scored the visitor's seventh and final goal as a second half substitute as new manager Gerardo Martino watched his charges cruise to a routine win over a plucky but callow Thai side.

Thailand's star striker Teerasil Dangda scored a consolation penalty in the last minute of the first-half following a bungled recovery tackle by young Cameroonian centre-half Frank Bagnack.

But all eyes were on Barca's flamboyant new signing Neymar, who was this week reportedly been diagnosed with anaemia, and his partnership up front with four-time world player of the year Messi.

Martino said the pair will compliment each other, as Barca look to a reshaped front line to spearhead a defence of their La Liga crown and banish last season's Champions League humbling by Bayern Munich.

"They (Messi and Neymar) are different players but I think they showed a good understanding today," the former Paraguay coach told reporters. "They found each other well."

The Blaugrana's €57 million headline summer signing showed no sign of his apparent blood illness in a lively 45 minutes, the highlight of which was his landmark goal from close range on 12 minutes, sparking the rout as Barca cruised to a 1-5 halftime lead.

But it was Cesc Fabregas, the subject of a major transfer bid from Manchester United, was at the heart of Barca's best moves, his metronomic passing from the left side of the three-man midfield reminding spectators why the club are so keen to keep the playmaker.

Martino said the graduate of the team's fabled La Masia academy was going nowhere, despite United's very public courting of his creative services.

"Fabregas is still here with us... he is staying with us right now, he will stay with us for the rest of the year," he said, dismissing talk of a transfer.

The second half saw Barca's first choice trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets replace Alex Song and highly-regarded youngster Sergi Roberto, who is tipped to make up for the loss of Thiago Alacantra to Bayern.

Fabregas pushed up into the front three as Messi and Neymar also made way.

Xavi immediately stepped up the tempo, floating passes across the pitch and bouncing the ball off Fabregas before the younger man withdrew with 20 minutes to play.

Earlier, Pedro completed his hat-trick with a nicely taken first-time lob on 47 minutes, which Sanchez followed a minute later, tapping home another sweeping Barca move.

Barca are the fourth big name side to travel to Bangkok this summer hot on the heels of English Premier League giants Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool who have all toured the kingdom.

The Catalan side return to Asia three years after their last tour of the football-mad continent – home to a massive fan base and huge potential sums in sponsorship.

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The tour is also final chance for Martino to assess his players in official friendly action before they start their La Liga defence on August 18.

Barca travel to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to play a Malaysia XI on August 10.

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