Luis Suarez made light of the absences of Lionel Messi and Neymar as his hat-trick sent Barcelona into the Club World Cup final with a 3-0 win over Guangzhou Evergande Taobao.
Neymar was only fit enough for the bench due to a groin problem and Luis Enrique’s side were given further cause for concern when Messi was ruled out just hours before kick-off with renal colic.
But Suarez seized responsibility for the European champions, pouncing on a rebound shortly before half-time to give Barca the lead before doubling the advantage with a well-taken second on 50 minutes in Yokohama.
Guangzhou rarely showed signs of a fight-back and Suarez blasted home a penalty to complete his treble – the first in the tournament’s history – on 67 minutes and secure the victory for Barca, who remain on course to claim their fifth trophy of 2015 in Sunday’s final against River Plate.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men, meanwhile, will now face Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the third-place play-off.
Guangzhou were happy to sit deep and try to spring a quick counter-attack, but Barca offered little to trouble the Chinese champions in a pedestrian opening period.
It was not until the 23rd minute that Barca carved out their first clear chance, but Li Shuai was off his line quickly to block Munir El Haddadi’s effort after a brilliant through-ball from Andres Iniesta.
Guangzhou were dealt a blow when Zou Zheng had to be stretchered off with what looked to be a potentially serious injury to his ankle and their task became even greater when Suarez opened the scoring after 39 minutes.
Ivan Rakitic’s shot from distance was poorly parried by Shuai, allowing the on-rushing Suarez to steal in and fire high into the net from six yards.
Suarez struck again just after the break to double Barca’s lead – and in some style. The Uruguay star laid the ball off to Iniesta and, after the captain’s measured chip over the top of the defence, he chested the ball down before poking it high into the far corner.
Iniesta found the wrong side of the roof of the net with a fine curling effort from 20 yards as Barca began to enjoy their control over proceedings, and when Huang Bowen tripped Munir inside the box following Dani Alves’ brilliant no-look pass, Suarez took full advantage from the spot to complete his hat-trick.
Munir’s fine run from the left gave him a sight of goal from 20 yards, but his shot bounced inches wide of the far post, as Barca looked to add some extra gloss to the scoreline against a tiring Guangzhou.
But the Liga leaders were able to hand run-outs to substitutes Sandro Ramirez, Adriano and Sergi Samper late on as they cruised through to Sunday’s final against Copa Libertadores holders River.
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