YOKOHAMA (Reuters) – Barcelona swept to the Club World Cup title by outclassing South American champions River Plate 3-0 on Sunday, with Luis Suarez scoring twice after Lionel Messi had broken the deadlock in a one-sided contest.
There was a hint of handball about Messi’s goal, although it did not appear to be intentional, as the Argentine brought down Neymar’s pass and cleverly flicked the ball past Marcelo Barovero.
Uruguay forward Suarez took his tally in the tournament to five goals after his hat-trick in the semi-final win over Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, and 24 goals in as many games this season.
The European champions, fielding six South American players, were especially dominant in the second half when they repeatedly sliced through the River defence looking as if they could score with almost every attack.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez seemed to take it in turns to run at the bewildered River defence and the Brazilian, in particular, over-elaborated in his attempt to get on the scoresheet.
The match emphasised the gap between club football on the two continents with nearly all the top South American players now based in Europe.
River’s team, made up mainly of journeymen with only a smattering of international caps between them, cost around 5 million euros ($5.43 million) in transfer fees, compared to an estimated 80 million euros that Barcelona paid for Suarez alone.
Backed by 15,000 fanatical supporters who had made the trip from Argentina, they made a promising start as Rodrigo Mora and Lucas Alario both got into good shooting positions, only to produce weak efforts which were easily saved by Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
“We had a game plan that we executed for 36 minutes until Messi’s first goal, from then on we started to lose our shape,” River coach Marcelo Gallardo told reporters.
“We’re upset we couldn’t give the supporters this satisfaction (of winning). “When you play a phenomenal team like Barcelona, you have to recognise their supremacy.”
Messi had already been denied by Marcelo Baravero before scoring the opener, although replays suggested the ball may have touched his arm as he brought it under control.
River enjoyed some possession after halftime, but only until Sergio Busquets sent Suarez clear of the River defence to score the second four minutes into the second half.
The third goal in the 68th minute was a gem as Neymar planted a cross on Suarez’s head and he placed the ball past Barovero.
($1 = 0.9206 euros)
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Toby Davis)