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Barcelona jets in for a day to beat South African champs

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) Ousmane Dembele, Luis Suarez and Andre Gomes scored as Barcelona beat South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 on Wednesday in a friendly marking 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela.

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Lionel Messi didn’t start the game at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg but drew a roar from the crowd as big as any other on the night when he got up off the bench and started to warm up 20 minutes into the second half. He came on for the last 15 minutes. Andres Iniesta did start in his return to the stadium where he won the World Cup for Spain in 2010.

Dembele, Suarez and Gomes all took advantage of defensive errors, with Dembele curling a left-foot shot into net in the third minute and Suarez doubling the lead in the 18th minute. Gomes added the third in the 66th.

Sibusiso Vilakazi scored Sundowns’ goal late on but the Spanish champions were in cruise control against the South African league winner. Barcelona returns home to play its last game of the Spanish season on Sunday against Real Sociedad, Iniesta’s farewell match after 22 years at Barcelona.

Barcelona two results from first unbeaten La Liga season

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Barcelona moved to within two matches of an unbeaten league season with a 5-1 blasting of Villarreal at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Barca, who drew Real Madrid at the weekend, finishes at Levante and home to Real Sociedad. They have 27 wins and nine draws, and lead second place Atletico Madrid by 15 points.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-1 Huddersfield ]

No La Liga team has gone unbeaten in a season lasting longer than 18 matches.

Ousmane Dembele scored twice, while Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, and Paulinho also scored in the blowout.

Messi’s goal was one of our last chances to see the Andres Iniesta to Messi connection in action.

Dembele now has three goals and five assists in his last 10 matches after a dreadful start to life in La Liga.

And he’s showing exactly why Barca was willing to pay big to pry him from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.

WATCH: Dembele finally gets first La Liga goal in 10-man Barca draw

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Ousmane Dembele definitely didn’t expect to wait until April for his first La Liga goal when he signed from Borussia Dortmund for nearly $150 million last summer.

After an assist on his La Liga debut — in the Barcelona Derby and on a feed to Luis Suarez no less — the 20-year-old has faced two significant muscle injuries and just plain bad luck for the Blaugranas.

[ MORE: Neymar speaks on World Cup ]

With assists in four of his last seven league games and a first Barca goal against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League last month, the league goal was coming (although you’d be forgiven for thinking it wouldn’t be on a night with Lionel Messi and Suarez on the bench).

Barca is now unbeaten in 40 league matches after the Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo, and has 12-point lead on Atletico Madrid. Atleti has played one less match.

Messi roasts Chelsea with virtuoso performance

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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  • Messi scores in 2nd minute (video)
  • Then assists Dembele, 20
  • Alonso hits post
  • Messi completes brace, records 100th UCL goal

Lionel Messi put a pair of goals through the legs of Thibaut Courtois and Ousmane Dembele also scored as Barcelona worked Chelsea 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday to advance to UEFA Champions League quarterfinals by a 4-1 aggregate score line.

The tie was 1-1 after the first leg at Stamford Bridge, but Messi scored the fastest goal of his career to put the reigning Premier League champions on the back foot.

Messi scored his 100th Champions League, and only Cristiano Ronaldo is in front of him on the all-time table with 117 goals. Ronaldo is two years and four months older than Messi.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The Barcelona mega star started a combination play and deposited a deflected pass between the legs of Thibaut Courtois from a very tight angle.

Chelsea didn’t go away, and Barca showed it can counter just as well as it possesses when Messi took advantage of a turnover from former teammate Cesc Fabregas.

Messi danced down the left and cut across the 18 to find Dembele. The teenager took a touch and blasted past Courtois for 2-0.

Luis Suarez was denied by Courtois in the 28th as Barcelona threatened to turn the second leg into a runaway.

The Blues nearly found a goal in the 45th minute when Marcos Alonso whipped a free kick off the post, but Chelsea would need to find a pair in the second half in order to reach the quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

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A giveaway forced Courtois to deny Suarez in the 48th minute, as Barcelona aimed for the third goal which would make a quarterfinal berth a virtual certainty.

Olivier Giroud drew a yellow card in protest when the referee denied Marcos Alonso’s shouts for a penalty kick.

Messi then did his thing again, beating Courtois through the legs in the 64th minute.

10-man Celtic wins Old Firm thriller at Rangers (video)

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Odsonne Edouard’s second-half goal defied a Celtic red card as the 10-man visitors claimed all three Old Firm Derby points with a 3-2 comeback win over Rangers on Sunday at the Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow.

Celtic is unbeaten over 90 minutes in 12-straight against their Old Firm rivals, winning eight times including five at the Ibrox. Rangers won a League Cup match in penalty kicks.

Rangers led 1-0 and 2-1 through Josh Windass and Daniel Daneias, but Celtic found answers through Tom Rogic and Moussa Dembele before halftime.

Jozo Šimunović was sent off with 33 minutes to play, but Celtic found its winner and went nine points clear of their historic rivals with a match-in-hand. Rangers remain second, five points ahead of Aberdeen.

[ MORE: Fiorentina salutes Astori ]

An awful giveaway from Dedryck Boyata allowed Windass to put Rangers ahead after three minutes.

But the champs answered through Rogic’s classy finish to level the score in the 10th.

That wasn’t it for the insane stanza, and Rangers capitalized on sloppy Boyata defending to retake the lead through Daneias.

But ‘Gers killer Dembele got on the end of a Scott Brown long ball to have it 2-2 at the break.

Šimunović was shown a red card by referee Willie Collum in the 57th minute, a high elbow ending his day and putting the visitors in a bad place.

Yet, somehow, the reigning champions found the next goal through Edouard, set up by Dembele and scoring from just inside the 18.