Barcelona cruise to 3-1 victory over Sundowns

2018-05-16 21:55

Despite a gallant performance from Mamelodi Sundowns, Spanish champions Barcelona emerged 3-1 victors in the inaugural Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup match.

The Spanish champions dominated proceedings from the onset and scored two goals in the first twenty minutes, effectively killing the match as a contest.

They also pressed from the front and denied Sundowns any room to string together any meaningful passes.

When they had the ball in their possession, the La Liga outfit gave Masandawana a lesson in keeping ball possession, a trait which ironically the Brazilians are themselves synonymous for when facing PSL opposition.

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane chose to field colossal Ivorian international, Bangaly Soumahoro, as his centre back instead of young star Motjeka Madisha – a decision he was meant to rue within the first five minutes of the match.

Barcelona’s pressing game led to French striker Ousmane Dembélé profiting from a forced mistake by Soumahoro.

Under pressure from Suarez, Soumahoro cleared the ball straight into the legs of Dembélé who turned the giant Soumahoro inside-out before calmly slotting the ball into the back of Denis Onyango’s net.

Barcelona’s quick passing soon earned them a second goal as a quick interchange between Andrés Iniesta, Denis Suárez and Luis Suárez further exposed Soumahoro and left the central defender sprawling on the field.

This second goal seemed to ignite a Sundowns fightback and Percy Tau found himself in a one-on-one situation against Marc-André ter Stegen, but the latter seemed to anticipate the chip that Tau attempted and collected the ball denying Sundowns a goal.

The atmosphere was electric in the packed FNB stadium with fans cheering for both teams.

The sides went to the break with Barcelona two goals to the good.

However, the second half saw the La Liga champions come back a much changed side with coach Ernesto Valverde changing his entire starting line-up.

Masandawana tried in vain to capitalise on the changes and a third goal from André Gomes seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.

The crowd continued their relentless chants for Lionel Messi to be introduced into the match and their wish was finally granted when the maestro got up around the 70th minute to do his warm-up.

A number of fans ran to him when he was still warming up, causing police officers to rush to avoid an incident.

One fan ran across the pitch but Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane generously hugged him.

And in the 73rd minute, Valverde finally made the change and introduced Messi into the match.

The hosts were given more to celebrate as a consolation goal came courtesy of Sundowns midfielder Sibusiso Vilakazi.

After the match Sundowns player Jeremy Brockie said: “These are the players I usually select to play with on PlayStation and the same efficiency they demonstrate in the game was the same one I saw today when playing against them.”

Brockie alluded to the Spanish team’s work ethic when they have the ball and also when they lose the ball as what led to their victory.

Sundowns coach Mosimane also said this was a good learning curve for his team and that it was now up to them to take the lessons learnt and implement them in their games to come.

The match was attended by dignitaries such as Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu, as well as Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe  and Energy Minister Jeff Radebe.

At the end of the match, it was clear that despite the freezing condition, South Africans love the beautiful game of football and nothing was going to stop them from watching some of their favourite stars in action.

And it appeared that the vuvuzela was no longer a fan favourite, but the Mexican Wave may be the future.

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March 24 2019