Barcelona ease to cup glory

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A goal from Lionel Messi and a double from Luis Suarez saw Barcelona beat River Plate 3-0 in Yokohama to win the FIFA Club World Cup and cap a triumphant 2015 for the Catalan club.

Messi opened the scoring 10 minutes before the end of a difficult first half for Barcelona, who were tested by River’s intensity, but the European champions struck again early in the second period through Suarez and the Uruguayan sealed their third world title by heading home a cross from Neymar.

Barcelona become the first team to win the trophy three times, surpassing the two titles won by Corinthians, while Messi, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique become the only players to collect three winners’ medals.

River’s tactics were to press Barca high up the pitch to disrupt their passing game and stifle creation. It worked for a large part of the first half, even if they had to resort to frequent tactical fouling.

In spite of the shackles imposed on them, Barca created a couple of openings. Messi took down a ball from Iniesta superbly to half-volley at Marcelo Barovero, and a tame shot from Alves following a Neymar cross from the left, which the goalkeeper also gathered. River’s few chances came from set-pieces and distance shots from Rodrigo Mora and Lucas Alario, both which went straight at Bravo.

Messi also tried a free-kick which Barovero tipped around the post, but it would not be long before the Argentinian finally found a way through.

Jordi Alba won the ball back in River’s half and Barca broke quickly, Messi playing in Alves, who floated a ball into the area from the right and Neymar rose to head it down towards Messi, who controlled it before hooking a right footed shot just beyond the reach of Barovero. The Barcelona substitutes raced out of the dugout to join Luis Enrique’s wild celebrations, such was the importance of the goal, but replays showed Messi may have controlled the ball with his right hand before shooting.

The goal sapped River’s confidence and Barca could have scored again before the break, Messi releasing Suarez with a curled pass from the right wing, but the Uruguayan fired the wrong side of the near post.

Gallardo made a double substitution at half-time, bringing on Lucho Gonzalez and Gonzalo Martinez for the booked Leonardo Ponzio and ineffective Mora. But the new players were on the pitch for only four minutes before Barca struck again. This time the high press was River’s undoing, as Busquets spotted a gap in the defensive line and Suarez ran into it, controlling and sliding the ball under the legs of Barovero.

Barca pushed for a killer third goal and, although Messi squandered a chance to add to his earlier effort, Suarez took his opportunity to do the same, glancing Neymar’s cross into the far corner.

The Uruguayan took the prize for the tournament’s top scorer, his double adding to his hat-trick against Guangzhou, while Barca earn the right to be called world champions.

Capturing the Club World Cup caps a superb year for Suarez and Barcelona, who lifted five trophies in 2015, including the Spanish Primera Division, the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup and the Champions League.

But the striker urged his side to learn from the mistakes of last year’s world champions Real Madrid, who failed to collect any more trophies in 2015.

“After a competition like this there are always teams that drop off and enter into a bad run, so we must keep going,” Suarez told Telecinco.

“The most important thing was winning the trophy, which is what everyone wanted to do.

“You have to try and help with goals and I was able to do that this time so I’m also happy about that,” he said on his double, which makes him joint-top scorer in the history of the tournament along with Messi and Cesar Delgado.

And the Uruguayan had a special word for Neymar and Messi, who overcame a groin injury and abdominal pain respectively to play in the final after missing the semi-final against Guangzhou Evergrande.

“We have to highlight the sacrifice that Messi made in order to play today,” he said.

“He and Neymar wanted to play the game at any cost, but we should also remember the sacrifice the entire group has made this year. We are the best team in the world.”

 

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