Keen to impress the thousands who had come to the stadium, the hosts took the game to Barça straight from the kick-off, however, an early mistake allowed Ousmane Dembélé to fire home a left-footed effort with less than three minutes played.
An entertaining opening saw both teams knock the ball around with purpose, and it would be the Blaugrana who would extend their lead through Luis Suárez on 19 minutes. The Uruguayan almost added another before the Sundowns had their best period of the first half, hitting the post on 26.
As Barça sought to press home their advantage, a clearance from Andrés Iniesta split the home defence, and within two passes Dembélé was in again but his shot was cleared off the line. Kakana’s long-range effort stung Marc-André ter Stegen’s finger tips, and, in keeping with the exciting nature of proceedings, Denis Suárez soon headed against the post from Dembélé’s tantalising cross.
Barça began the second half with a different XI to the first, and almost scored straight away, Paulinho having the ball taken off his toes at the last moment.
With spaces opening up, an unmarked André Gomes took aim with his left but could only find the keeper’s arms, whilst Sergi Roberto was next to try his luck with a typical run into the area as Barça came streaming forward at every opportunity.
Another defensive error from the hosts just after the hour mark gave Gomes the perfect opportunity to slot home a third, and that was the cue for Lionel Messi to come out and warm up, sending the entire stadium into a frenzy. The Argentinian arrived with a quarter of an hour left to play and set up a chance for Paco Alcácer with only this third touch.
In the very next play, Vilakazi managed to evade the offside trap and grab a consolation for the Sundowns, with Barça indebted to Jorge Cuenca just two minutes later when it looked as if the hosts would score a second. Messi had to wait until the 89th minute before his first shot at goal, and that proved to be the last meaningful chance of this friendly.
FC Barcelona are next in action on Sunday, May 20 (8.45pm CEST), in what will be Andrés Iniesta’s final game, against Real Sociedad.
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