It was an epic Wednesday evening at the FNB stadium in Soweto South Africa as more than 85 000 spectators thronged to watch the historic match between F.C Barcelona and Mamelodi Sundowns.
By Daniel Itai
The last time the two teams met was in 2007 and Sundowns succumbed to a 2 – 1 defeat. But this year they were hoping to turn the tables around after having secured the 2017/18 League title.
With such achievement and a superb crowd it seemed Barcelona were up for a treat in South Africa.
Although on paper Barcelona where seemingly the favorites, Sundowns seemed very much equipped for them.
Two minutes into the first half Barcelona proved why their trophy cabinet has relatively all the silverware as Ousmane Dembele opened up for the oLaLiga champions courtesy of a mistake that the Sundowns defense made.
The goal seemed to have spiked some fear in the Sundowns team as they were making sloppy passes and clearances that could have increased the gap within the first ten minutes.
However, Percy Tau managed to get a golden opportunity in the twelfth minute of the game with only the keeper to beat but failed to land it at the back of the net making the job of Barcelona’s goalie Andre Ter Stegen a lot easier.
Barcelona quickly took heed of the memo and replied in the nineteenth minute courtesy of a whacking shot from Luis Suarez that left Denis Onyango the Sundowns goalkeeper in aghast.
The morale of the Sundowns team was also affected and the mistakes continued to amount.
Although Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane tried by every means to hype the mood of the players which seemed to have worked for a while as the Sundowns attacking force which comprises of Khama Billiat, Tau and Themba Zwane started to showcase some energy and hunger for goals, their zest was futile and Sundowns went to the break trailing by two goals to nil.
The second half started pretty much the same as the first half with Barcelona‘s coach Ernesto Valverde changing most of his players.
With sloppy goalkeeping and a weak defense Mosimane tried spicing things up in the second half with even goalkeeper Denis Onyango being replaced by Zambian keeper Kennedy Mweene but the results seemed the same.
Soon after his inception in the sixty-sixth minute, Barcelona took no time to test Mweene. The Zambian failed as Barcelona’s Andre Gomes made it three as a result of a costly mistake by Hlompho Kekana.
Regardless, Sundowns managed to keep their composure which soon bore fruit as Sibusiso Vilakazi managed to resuscitate the hopes of Sundowns in the seventy-fifth minute of perhaps winning the match courtesy of an assist from Tau.
It wasn’t long before Valverde introduced sensational striker Lionel Messi into the beautiful game much to the thrill of the crowd.
However, the Sundowns team were not seemingly afraid of Messi as they tried by all means to ensure that his name was not part of the score sheet as he did in the LaLiga with an impressive ninety-eight goal tally in thirty-seven matches. At the end Sundowns succumbed to a 3 – 1 defeat.
Both coaches expressed their gratitude regardless of the results. Valverde said that he was surprised by how amazingly Sundowns played and was also honored to have been part of the Mandela centenary celebrations.
However, Mosimane said that the game was a learning experience and hopefully would implement what they learned in their team.
Business mogul Patrice Motsepe who relatively organized the match handed over five million Rand to the Nelson Mandela foundation as a way of also celebrating the legacy of Mandela.
The Nelson Mandela Day will be held on the 18th of July and prior to that the former president of the United States of America Barrack Obama is expected to convey a public lecture at the Ellis Park Stadium in Ellis Park.