Sloppy defending costs Sundowns as Barcelona prove their class
Cape Town - Barcelona have beaten ABSA Premiership champions, Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 in the Mandela Centenary Cup at FNB Stadium.
The visitors from Spain were straight out of the blocks from the opening whistle and had the lead in a matter of two minutes.
Ousmane Dembele was the man to do the damage after he cut inside onto his left foot and launched an unstoppable shot past Denis Onyango in the Sundowns goal for an early 1-0 lead for the visitors.
After a nervy start, Sundowns had their first major attack of the match in the 12th minute with Percy Tau missing a glorious chance to level the scores after he found himself with just Barcelona goalkeeper, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to beat.
Tau opted to try and chip the Barcelona keeper but could not get the elevation needed to beat Ter Stegen who easily collected the ball.
Barcelona quickly launched an attack of their own, finding Luis Suarez who dragged his shot wide just a minute later.
Suarez was not to be denied a second time and easily slotted home after he was put through by Denis Suarez who collected a bouncing ball in midfield.
At 2-0 in the 19th minute, it seemed as if Barcelona were ready to put the game out of Sundowns' reach as soon as they could.
The home side, however, fought back with Themba Zwane forcing Ter Stegen into a fine save in the 26th minute.
In the 29th minute Khama Billiat forced his way behind the Barcelona defence only for Lucas Digne to cut out a dangerous cross.
Sundowns captain, Hlompho Kekana was next to test Ter Stegen with a trademark, long-range effort which the visiting keeper tipped over the bar.
Ivan Rakitic almost added to the Barcelona lead in the 38th minute when his header flew back off the upright.
Sundowns had another excellent chance in the 41st minute when Tau laid a ball on for an on-rushing Samuel Mabunda who unleashed a howitzer of a shot into the side netting.
No further action followed in the half and the teams went into the break with Barcelona leading 2-0.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde made 10 changes to his team at the start of the second half, but the man the crowd wanted to see, Lionel Messi, was still left warming the bench.
The visitors were first to launch an attack in the second half with Íñigo Ruiz de Galarreta shooting wide of the Sundowns goal.
Substitute Barcelona keeper, Jasper Cillessen, was then called into action after Kekana aimed another long-range effort towards the visitors goal in the 51st minute.
In the 66th minute, Barcelona substitute Andre Gomes put the game beyond doubt when he punished a casual Sundowns defence by firing home for a 3-0 lead.
The biggest cheer of the night came in the 73rd minute when Lionel Messi finally made his way onto the field.
The reaction of the crowd in seeing their hero simply said it all.
To their credit, Sundowns kept pushing for a goal of their own and were rewarded in the 75th minute when Sibusiso Vilakazi calmly steered the ball past Cillessen in the Barcelona goal to make the score 3-1.
In the 87th minute, Messi unleashed a left-footed shot from outside the area, but substitute keeper, Kennedy Mweene casually palmed the ball down and collected at the feet of an onrushing Barcelona player.
There was end to end action as the second half wound down without neither side able to find another goal as the match finished 3-1 to the visitors.