Span­ish giants thrill fans

Madiba game shows brighter side

The Star Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - MAZOLA MOLEFE

THE NO­TO­RI­OUS Joburg traf­fic struck again in the lead-up to the Sun­downs ver­sus Barcelona clash at the FNB Sta­dium, which was also the venue for the 2010 World Cup fi­nal.

But the Joburg metro po­lice must be com­mended for han­dling it with ease. Get­ting into this packed venue con­tin­ues to be a night­mare for many reg­u­lar football lovers, and last night was no ex­cep­tion – how­ever, there were enough bod­ies de­ployed to han­dle any po­ten­tial chaos.

Often enough there is a de­lay in the kick-off time due to the num­ber of spec­ta­tors still strug­gling to make their way into the sta­dium when Soweto ri­vals Amakhosi and Amab­hakaniya play there.

This time the slight de­lay, by a minute or so, lay on the shoul­ders of the dig­ni­taries, who in­sisted on grab­bing the spot­light by shak­ing the hands of both Sun­downs and Barcelona play­ers.

They’d barely made their way to the VIP suites, and the class act that is the Span­ish giants were al­ready 1-0 up through a Ous­mane Dem­bele stun­ner.

Out­side, fans were still pouring in, from train sta­tions and the N1, which had been backed up from as early as 2pm for this 6.15pm kick-off.

The ef­fi­ciency of the metro po­lice high­lighted yet again how the Pre­mier Soc­cer League, lo­cal clubs and the SA Po­lice Ser­vice are cost-cut­ting and tak­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures lightly.

If this much money, ef­fort and bod­ies had been de­ployed at Lof­tus Vers­feld more than a year ago when Sun­downs hosted Pi­rates, and fans in­vaded the pitch and as­saulted se­cu­rity mar­shals, the nar­ra­tive could have been dif­fer­ent.

Ditto at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium, where Chiefs lost to Free State Stars three weeks ago.

The gov­ern­ment had said it was not pre­pared to wit­ness a re­peat here. So Sun­downs’ bil­lion­aire owner Pa­trice Mot­sepe dipped into his pocket to beef up se­cu­rity. And so did the gov­ern­ment – all in the name of Madiba, to cel­e­brate Nel­son Man­dela’s cen­te­nary.

It was smooth sail­ing for the or­gan­is­ers, at least in full view of the pub­lic, at the time of writ­ing. The only group at risk of be­ing em­bar­rassed was Sun­downs, who strug­gled to keep up with their Span­ish coun­ter­parts on the field of play.

But a les­son to the PSL: ef­fi­ciency costs money.

Mamelodi Sun­downs ......................... (0)1 Vi­lakazi 76’ Barcelona .............................................. (2)3 Dem­bele 3, Suarez 18, Gomes 66

THREE MIS­TAKES, three goals and just over the hour mark Mamelodi Sun­downs were down for the count and Barcelona had done what they were ex­pected to do – eas­ily brush aside the Brazil­ians.

Lionel Messi wasn’t even on the field by the time Barcelona were 3-0 up. The Ar­gen­tine started on the bench due to the mi­nor knock he was car­ry­ing, giv­ing Percy Tau a head start in the Percy vs Messi duel. Tau turned the sold-out crowd here into lions as they roared for his every touch.

But Barcelona were the real lions, de­vour­ing Sun­downs in an in­ter- na­tional friendly that’s part of the Nel­son Man­dela cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions.

The Brazil­ians could have used some Madiba Magic in an up­hill bat­tle against the Span­ish cham­pi­ons. In the ab­sence of the magic from the late for­mer Pres­i­dent, Sun­downs had to make do with Tau magic.

But Sun­downs’ tal­is­man was with­out his magic wand. He was starved of the ball through Barcelona’s good press­ing game. In the mo­ments Tau had the ball he showed glimpses of his magic but it wasn’t enough. He broke free early into the match thanks to his pace and tried to cheek­ily chip the ball over Marc-Andre ter Ste­gen but it didn’t have enough power be­hind it.

The Percy vs Messi “show” was a damp squib. Tau strug­gled to take a lead­ing role and the Ar­gen­tine was on the bench for the bet­ter part of this match. Messi, how­ever, eas­ily won this “con­test” as he re­ceived loud ap­plauses from just warm­ing up. When he en­tered on the 73rd minute this sta­dium looked like a disco light, brightly lit by flash lights from ador­ing fans who wanted to cap­ture a mo­ment of ar­guably the best player of his gen­er­a­tion.

The fans chanted Messi’s name at the start of the sec­ond half, de­mand­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the man that most peo­ple here came to see. While Messi was on the bench, Ous­mane Dem­bele and Luis Suarez gave the fans rea­sons to cheer with their two early goals. Both those goals came be­cause of an er­ror from Souma­horo Ban­galy at the back. The third Barcelona goal also came from a de­fen­sive er­ror, a sloppy pass at the back that was pun­ished by Andre Gomes. The Cata­lan giants made Sun­downs pay for those mis­takes, of­fer­ing them a free les­son on how costly any slip-up is in the in­ter­na­tional stage.

Sun­downs’ coach Pitso Mosi­mane was calm for most of this match. He had al­ready re­signed him­self to the fact that Sun­downs would lose to Barcelona, an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic state­ment from a man who al­ways backs his team. But it wasn’t a state­ment of cow­ardice, he was be­ing in touch with re­al­ity. With that re­al­i­sa­tion at the back of his mind, all Mosi­mane wanted from his play­ers was for them to put on a de­cent show and not let the Span­ish giants walk all over them. Sibu­siso Vi­lakazi stepped up and scored the con­so­la­tion goal.

Sun­downs learnt valu­able les­sons, like the need for a re­li­able cen­tre­back if they are to go far in the Caf Cham­pi­ons League. The Brazil­ians’ short­com­ings in de­fence in the do­mes­tic league are masked by their strong at­tack and the fact that few teams go toe-to-toe with them. They buckle un­der pres­sure from strong op­po­nents. This is what hap­pened here last night.

PIC­TURE: ITUME­LENG ENGLISH/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

The cold couldn’t keep the fans away from the Downs and Barcelona Man­dela Cen­te­nary Cup friendly at the FNB sta­dium last night.

PIC­TURE: ITUME­LENG ENGLISH/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

ON THE MARK: Mamelodi Sun­downs’s Sibu­siso Vi­lakazi is chal­leged by Barcelona’s Lucas Digne dur­ing Man­dela Cen­te­nary Cup at FNB Sta­dium. Vi­lakazi scored the hom’e side’s goal in a 3-1 de­feat.

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