YOKOHAMA, Japan - Barcelona’s Luis Suarez got a hat-trick, including an exquisite second goal, as they strolled into the Club World Cup final with a 3-0 win over Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande on Thursday.
The Chinese side gave the European champions a couple of scares in the first half but they were utterly outclassed by the end of a match that often resembled an attack-versus-defence training session.
Zou Zheng also suffered a horrific injury in the first half, appearing to break his leg as he fell awkwardly to the clear distress of his Guangzhou team mates.
Even without Lionel Messi, who was taken ill just hours before the game, and the injured Neymar, Barca enjoyed 75 percent of possession as they claimed a place in the final against South American champions River Plate.
Barca needed 39 minutes to break down the Guangzhou defence, Suarez pouncing to tuck in the rebound after goalkeeper Li Shaui failed to hold Ivan Rakitic’s long-range drive.
The game was settled as a contest after 49 minutes when Andres Iniesta sent a beautifully-weighted pass into the area and Suarez caught it on his chest before volleying past Li in one movement.
The Uruguay forward completed his hat-trick by converting a penalty in the 67th minute as Barca fired an ominous warning to the 15,000 Argentines who have made the trip to support River Plate.
“We played a very serious, very sharp game against a complicated opponent,” said Barca coach Luis Enrique.
“These games against opponents you do not usually meet always generate doubts, especially as they have Brazilian players with quality, and we have played a really good game.”
Barca’s dominance was almost embarrassing as they stroked the ball effortlessly around and not even Guangzhou’s contingent of three Brazilian players could stop them.
It was the Chinese team’s first defeat in 26 games under coach Luiz Felipe Scolari who took over in June.
Scolari was returning to the stadium where he led Brazil to their fifth world title in 2002, although this time he was in search of redemption after last year’s 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany on home soil in his second stint in charge.
“I want to thank the players for this fantastic year they have had,” Scolari told reporters. “Losing 3-0 to Barcelona is no different to what other big clubs have suffered.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez and Ken Ferris