Suarez Hat-trick Seals A Spot in Final For Barcelona
The second installment of this year’s Club World Cup semi-finals saw Luis Suarez’s goal-scoring prowess lead FC Barcelona to 3-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande in Yokohama, Japan.In a clash between between the champions of Europe
The second installment of this year’s Club World Cup semi-finals saw Luis Suarez’s goal-scoring prowess lead FC Barcelona to 3-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande in Yokohama, Japan.
In a clash between between the champions of Europe and the champions of Asia, Barcelona controlled the game through maintaining the majority of possession and a mass amount of passing which allowed them to tire their Chinese opponents.
Headlining the news before kick-off, FC Barcelona vice-captain Lionel Messi was removed from the squad at last-minute due to abdominal pains. As the top-scorer for his club this year, Lionel Messi’s injury had rattled the Spanish side before the game had even begun. To replace him, Spanish football-prodigy Munir El-Haddadi stepped into the vacant striker role. FC Barcelona forward Neymar was listed on the sidelines as he recovers from a groin injury, which has seen him miss recent fixtures for the Spanish side. And occupying the Brazilian’s usual starting position was Sergio Roberto.
Barcelona began the fixture with the majority of possession, allowing Luis Enqirue’s men to make inroads upfront as they pressed Evergrande into their own half.
The first opportunity at goal came in the 9th minute when a shot from FC Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta flew over the crossbar and into the stands. By then, Barcelona had three-quarters of possession and was already showing positive signs of nearing first to get on the scoreboard.
Evergrande centre-back Feng Xiaoting was handed a yellow card in the 15th minute after a tackle on Luis Suarez near the penalty box. The Uruguayan striker had been making a run towards goal before Xiaoting collided with him.
Li Shuai made his first save in the 23rd minute, when the Evergrande goalkeeper dashed to collect the ball from an oncoming Munir El-Haddadi inside the penalty box.
In the 34th minute, Zou Zheng was forced to leave the field in a stretcher, due to an injury sustained to his leg while contesting for a header with Dani Alves. Li Xuepeng was then brought on as the Evergrande defender’s replaement.
Shortly after play resumed, Luis Enrique’s men were in front as Barcelona put the ball in the back of the net through Luis Suarez.
It came after Li Shuai met Ivan Rakitic’s shot at goal, however, the Evergrande goalkeeper was unable to get a grip on the ball that then reached Luis Suarez, who made no hesitation to strike the ball into the goal.
Evergrande quickly responded with an attempt to equalize through Brazilian striker Elkeson. Claudio Bravo’s first save of the game was then made, as the Evergrande forward’s header met the Barcelona goalkeeper.
The Chinese side managed to remain on the attack until half-time, forcing Barcelona’s backline to clear the ball on multiple occasions as the Champions of Asia tried desperately to level the scores before half-time. But by the commencement of the break, the two-time Club World Cup champions were still ahead.
Stunning the opposition only four minutes into the second-half, Luis Suarez scored his second of the night off an magnificent assist from Andres Iniesta. The goal played out with the Barcelona captain providing a beautiful ball over the Evergrande backline and into Suarez’s control, allowing the Uruguayan forward to slide the ball past Li Shuai.
Barcelona continued to maintain the majority of possession, and did so in similar form to the first-half where they would retrieve the ball from an Evergrande mishap, before playing it through their backline who wait patiently for an opportunity to bring the ball into the opposition half.
Evergrande’s night got even worse when Luis Suarez became the first player to ever score a hat-trick in a Club World Cup fixture. After Evergrande midfielder Huang Bowen brought down Munir El-Haddadi in the 64th minute, Suarez stepped up to the penalty spot and converted to give Barcelona their third goal of the night.
Andres Iniesta handed his armband over to Sergio Busquets in the 80th minute, due to the Barcelona captain being substituted off for 20-year old Sergi Samper, who then played one of his first games for the Champions of Europe.
Evergrande failed to make any real threat at goal in the final stages of the fixture, while Barcelona continued to boost their number of shots on goal through the likes of Sandro Ramirez and Munir El-Haddadi.
The full-time whistle blew and Barcelona is officially into what could be a record-breaking final on December 20th. Up against Argentinian club River Plate, a third Club World Cup title will certainly be the goal for the Spanish side. And for the five-time consecutive Chinese Super League title-holders and Asian champions, Guangzhou Evergrande, they meet Japanese side Sanfreece Hiroshima in the 3rd place play-off, which will takes place prior to the final on Sunday – James Gow