Barcelona jets in for a day to beat South African champs
JOHANNESBURG (AP) Andres Iniesta returned to the scene of his greatest triumph in his penultimate game for Barcelona as the Spanish champion beat South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 in a friendly in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Iniesta played the first 45 minutes at FNB Stadium, where he scored the goal that won Spain the World Cup in 2010.
Ousmane Dembele, Luis Suarez and Andre Gomes scored for Barcelona against the South African league winner in a game that formed part of South Africa's celebrations to mark 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon who died in 2013.
Lionel Messi didn't start but drew a roar from the crowd as big as any other on the night when he got up off the bench and started to warm up 20 minutes into the second half. He came on for the last 15 minutes, enough time for him to launch a stinging, long-range shot that goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene struggled to stop.
It was a quick turnaround for the Barcelona squad, which arrived in South Africa on the morning of the match and was expected to head home again a couple of hours after the final whistle.
Barcelona plays its last game of the Spanish season on Sunday against Real Sociedad, Iniesta's farewell after 22 years at the Catalan club.
Dembele, Suarez and Gomes all took advantage of defensive errors, with Dembele curling a left-foot shot into net in the third minute and Suarez doubling the lead in the 18th minute. Gomes added the third in the 66th.
Sibusiso Vilakazi scored Sundowns' goal late on but Barca was in cruise control. Barcelona fielded two completely different lineups in each half. Suarez, Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets played the first half. Gerard Pique and Philippe Coutinho were in the 11 for the second half and Messi joined the action near the end.
Earlier, Messi and the rest of the squad drew hundreds of South Africans to OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg at 6 a.m. local time to see Barcelona arrive. Runway workers at South Africa's biggest airport temporarily abandoned their jobs to gather near the plane and cheer the team's arrival.
Updated May 16, 2018