Careless Sundowns defending helps Barcelona triumph
Soweto, South Africa: Careless defending gifted European giants Barcelona two goals as they defeated South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 Wednesday in a friendly game to honour the late Nelson Mandela.
Ousmane Dembele, Luis Suarez and Andre Gomes scored for the Spanish league and cup winners before Sibusiso Vilakazi pulled one goal back before a sell-out 80,000 Soweto crowd.
This year marks the centenary of the birth of Mandela, who died in 2013 having become the first democratically elected president of the republic 19 years earlier.
South Africans thronged to Soccer City stadium to see world superstar Lionel Messi and their wishes were granted when he came off the bench on 74 minutes.
His every touch drew huge applause and Sundowns defender Wayne Arendse was beaming after the final whistle having exchanged shirts with the Argentine maestro.
Barcelona were ahead within three minutes as a Bangaly Soumahoro pass was intercepted by Dembele, who rifled the ball past Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango.
Ivorian Soumahoro was also at fault for the second goal, failing to cut off a Denis Suarez pass on 19 minutes and Luis Suarez made no mistake from close range.
Between the goals, Sundowns star attacker Percy Tau had two chances, but his chip was saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen and he fired a close-range free-kick over.
Denis Suarez rattled the woodwork with a header as Barcelona constantly threatened and they turned over two goals ahead.
Coach Ernesto Valverde made 10 changes during half-time, but Messi was not among those introduced, leading the crowd to repeatedly chant "Messi, Messi, Messi".
More sloppy defending gave Barcelona a third goal on 67 minutes when an interception set up Gomes to fire past substitute goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
Although clearly second best, the 2016 African champions never lost heart and were rewarded when Vilakazi scored as Barcelona appealed for offside.