Barcelona beats River Plate for 3rd Club World Cup title
Lionel Messi scores controversial opening goal
A double strike from Luis Suarez and a controversial opening goal from Lionel Messi fired Barcelona to its third Club World Cup title on Sunday as the European champion beat South American champion River Plate 3-0 in the final.
Messi scored from close range in the 36th minute but replays strongly suggested the ball hit his right arm before he shot home.
Suarez added to his semifinal hat trick against China's Guangzhou Evergrande, scoring just four minutes after the break against River Plate. He ran down the right flank onto a fine through ball from Sergio Busquets that exposed the Argentine team's defence.
Brazil striker Neymar, who overcame a recent groin injury, supplied the cross which Suarez headed home in the 68th for his second, making it five goals in two matches for the Uruguay forward.
Barcelona is the first club to lift the trophy in its modern format three times, following triumphs in 2009 and 2011.
"We came to be No. 1 in the world and we achieved our goal," said Suarez. "I felt very strong with Neymar and Messi and we were able to win quite easily."
It was the second time Messi had found himself at the centre of controversy this week. He missed Thursday's 3-0 semifinal win over Guangzhou due to apparent renal colic, amid suspicions he had been simply rested for the final.
"Three days ago he was injured but he had a strong will to play in this match," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said after watching his team lift the trophy.
"We had our game plan and that was something we achieved until the Messi goal," said River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo. "We played against the great players of Barcelona — Messi, Neymar and Suarez — and they are able to do what they want."
Earlier Sunday, Douglas came off the bench to score twice and inspire Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima to a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Chinese rival Guangzhou in the third-place game at the Club World Cup.
The Brazilian striker scored 21 times this season for the Japanese champions but only came on midway through the second half for Hisato Sato, who squandered a hat trick of first-half chances.
Douglas took only three minutes to get on the score sheet, nodding home a simple 70th-minute equalizer.
When teammate Takuma Asano headed against the bar in the 83rd, Douglas was quickest to react, rising high to head home the looped rebound.
Guangzhou opened the scoring with the fastest goal of the tournament — a third-minute header by former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho.
Guangzhou fans inside the Nissan Stadium lit up their mobile phones after 25 minutes to show solidarity with Zou Zheng. The Chinese club's defender wears the No. 25 shirt, and remains hospitalized after being stretchered off with a broken leg in the 3-0 semifinal defeat to Barcelona on Thursday.
The annual tournament features the top clubs from FIFA's six continental confederations plus the champion of the host country.