Barcelona see off Sundowns in four-goal thriller

Barcelona vs Mamelodi Sundowns

Barcelona claimed a 3-1 victory against Mamelodi Sundowns to clinch the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup at the FNB Stadium on Wednesday evening, writes MARSHALL GOUTS.

The clash got off to an energetic start with both teams enjoying possession of the ball in their own halves.

The two teams hardly settled when the visitors took the lead in the third minute after Sundowns defender Bangaly Soumahoro needlessly gave away possession, which led to a venomous strike from Ousmane Dembele.

Barcelona continued to play with their down-tempo intensity, but dominated in all aspects with the home side largely chasing shadows.

Sundowns should have went level in the 12th minute when Percy Tau was gifted a one-on-one opportunity, but the Bafana Bafana forward’s attempted-chip was well read by Ter Stegen.

Barcelona doubled their lead in the 18th minute when Luis Suarez latched onto Andre Gomes’ reverse-turn pass which somehow evaded Soumahoro.

Despite the two-goal deficit, Masandawana grew in confidence and enjoyed a spell of play which put the five-time Champions League, winners in quite a spot of bother.

Pitso Mosimane’s side came close to scoring on more than one occasion, most notably Wayne Arendse’s header skimming the woodwork in the 27th minute.

Barcelona came agonisingly close to adding a third after Suarez and Dembele combined to good effect, but Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana cleared the French winger’s dinked effort off-the-line.

Four minutes later Kekana struck a long-range goalbound effort but Ter Stegen was equal to the task, palming his fierce effort over the bar.

Moments before the half-time break, Dembele outpaced Soumahoro and played in a delightful cross, but Denis Suarez’s header crashed off the post with Denis Onyango well-beaten.

Barcelona made all their changes in the second-half, with the exception of Lionel Messi as Alex Vidal, Andre Gomes, Jasper Cillessen, Gerard Pique, Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho were all brought on.

The visitors continued their dominance with Sundowns shading the possession stakes, however Ernesto Valverde’s side hardly troubled Onyango.

Fans in attendance at the FNB Stadium made their voices heard and chanted “Messi, Messi, Messi” in a bid to get the five-time Ballon D’or winner on the pitch.

Sundowns made their first change of the evening as Soumahoro made way for Motjeka Madisha.. The home side gave a much better account of themselves in the second stanza, but were guilty of poor-decision making in the final third as well as being wasteful.

Gomes got Barcelona’s third in the 66th minute after Kekana gave away possession, which the Spanish side capitalised on with the high-pressing tactic.

Messi finally made his long-awaited entrance to a rapturous applause with fifteen minutes left on the clock at the FNB Stadium.

Sundowns broke the deadlock in the 76th minute when Tau’s defence-splitting pass found Sibusiso Vilakazi, who made no mistake from within the area.

Tabeogo Langerman should have further reduced the deficit after latching onto Gaston Sirino’s ball into the area, but the defender opted for a pass when a shot seemed certain.

Sundowns were in firm control of the clash towards the closing stages of the encounter, however it proved too little too late as Barcelona ran out 3-1 victors to clinch the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup

Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Digne, Mina, Rakitic, Busquets, D.Suarez, Alena, Iniesta, L.Suarez, Dembele.

Sundowns XI: Onyango, Langerman, Arendse, Soumahoro, Ngcongca, Mabunda, Kekana, Vilakazi, Billiat, Zwane, Tau.

Photo: Gallo Images

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