Football: Suarez does all the lifting

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique says Luis Suarez is lethal in the box, as the striker proves with two strikes and another from the penalty spot in the 3-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande. 
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique says Luis Suarez is lethal in the box, as the striker proves with two strikes and another from the penalty spot in the 3-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Barca - minus Neymar and Messi - advance to Cup final with a hat-trick from Uruguayan

YOKOHAMA (Japan) - Only a third of Barcelona's attacking trident was needed against China's Guangzhou Evergrande yesterday.

In the absence of Lionel Messi and Neymar, Luis Suarez fired a hat-trick as Barcelona won 3-0 to reach the Club World Cup final.

The Spanish giants will face Argentine side River Plate in Yokohama on Sunday as they look to become the first team to win the tournament three times.

"Luis Suarez is deadly inside the box, he will always score for you," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said to reporters.

The European champions were rocked before the semi-final when Messi was sidelined with renal colic - commonly caused by kidney stones - which could also rule him out of the final.

Initially, Barca missed Messi's wizardry and the guile of his Brazilian strike partner Neymar, who was rested as he recovers from a groin strain.

"We don't know if we'll have Messi and Neymar for the final," Enrique said when quizzed about his two superstars.

The Catalans toiled to break down Evergrande's massed ranks of defenders, until Suarez pounced six minutes before half-time.

He poked in a loose ball after goalkeeper Li Shuai had parried Ivan Rakitic's fierce drive from the edge of the box.

The Uruguayan grabbed his second five minutes after the break when he latched onto a superb Andres Iniesta pass. He brought the ball down on his chest before volleying past Li to the cheers of many in the crowd of 63,000.

Suarez completed his treble from the penalty spot in the 67th minute to record his 21st goal of the season for Barca, who previously won the Club World Cup in 2009 and 2011.

"We knew we were without the two most important players for the team, but all we could do was stay focused and try to reach the final," he said.

"We knew there was a big chance we would be playing against River.

"They won the Copa Libertadores, they are one of the best teams in the Americas and we will have to play well to lift the Cup."

Suarez, Messi and Neymar have now plundered 130 goals for Barca in 2015. But Enrique sought out his captain Iniesta for praise.

"Andres dominated our combination play and he knows how to dribble and turn like no one else," he said. "We were very disciplined.

"It was a complete display."

Meanwhile, Barca technical director Robert Fernandez insisted no risks would be taken over Messi.

"Leo is not right," he said.

"We will see how he is in the night, how his symptoms develop tomorrow and see if he is fit to play the next game."

Evergrande manager Luiz Felipe Scolari thanked his players for their efforts after winning a fifth successive Chinese championship and their second Asian title in three years.

"I told my players I was very grateful for a wonderful year," said the former Brazil coach.

"We lost 3-0 to Barcelona but a lot of big teams have lost 3-0 to them so there is no shame.

"Even without Messi and Neymar, Barcelona have so much quality."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'SUAREZ DOES ALL THE LIFTING'. Print Edition | Subscribe