Barcelona made light work of their long distance trip to Johannesburg with a 3-1 win over South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in their gala friendly for the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup at Soccer City on Wednesday.
Lionel Messi made a cameo appearance in the last 20 minutes but by then Barca had taken advantage of some sloppy defending to comfortably win the game in front of a packed house.
Sundowns would have been hoping to keep Barcelona at bay for a little longer, but gave away the first goal in the opening three minutes and never really had a chance to get back in the game after that.
A horror error from Bangaly Soumaharo, only in the line-up because Brazilian defender Ricardo Nascimento had to pull out with flu, allowed French international Ousmane Dembele to steal the ball and lash home with a left-footed shot.
The gulf in quality was evident early with Barcelona’s high press and their quick movement of the ball showing in front of the 70 000-strong crowd.
Percy Tau might have equalised with a swift counter in the 13th minute as he got goalside of the Catalan defence and had only the goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to beat. He tried to chip the ball over the goalkeeper, who stood his ground and, in the end, made a comfortable save.
Barcelona were 2-0 up after 19 minutes with a simple set of passes that started with their goalkeeper and ended with a burst of pace from Luis Suarez around the ball of Soumaharo.
Khama Billiat had an opportunity and Hlompho Kekana forced a good save but it was really Barcelona who might have had more goals before the break.
Denis Suarez hit the upright with a header from Dembele’s cross in the 39th minute in a let off for the hosts and Kekana cleared off the line to keep it down to two at half time.
Another error, this time from Kekana, allowed Andre Gomes to net the third after Barcelona had changed their entire team at the break. It came in the 67th minute.
But there was a consolation for the home side some 10 minutes later as Sibusiso Vilakazi beat the offside trap to score.