DOHA: Goals from Luiz Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar helped Barcelona beat Saudi champions Al-Ahli 5-3 in a thrilling friendly in Doha on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
The superstar trio all scored by the 17th minute, helping the Spanish giants to stroll into an early three-goal lead.
And perhaps more importantly for Barcelona, it also ensured all three could be substituted by the 32nd minute to allay any injury fears ahead of the Catalan derby against Espanyol on Sunday.
Suarez opened the scoring with a glancing header in the eight minute from a Messi cross, before the Argentine quickly added a second just two minutes later.
Neymar, who had been struggling with a muscle strain since the Clasico against Real Madrid earlier this month, netted a fine third with a curling shot in the 17th minute.
Further goals from Paco Alcacer and Rafinha meant the La Liga champions were able to withstand a second-half comeback from the Saudi side.
Among the scorers for Al-Alhi was Omar Abdulrahman, AFC player of the year for 2016, who plays his football in the UAE but was allowed to turn out for the Saudis for the friendly.
He scored with a “Panenka” penalty in the 51st minute after Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip gave away the spot-kick.
The keeper may have been the only Barca player who did not enjoy the run-out in Qatar as he was also easily beaten at the near post for Al-Ahli’s second, scored by Muhannad Assiri.
The game was being played as part of Barcelona’s sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways, which ends next June.
Al-Ahli are also sponsored by the Gulf carrier.
The game was billed as the “Match of Champions” and Barcelona were presented with an 18 carat gold cup afterwards, specially commissioned for the game.
Among those watching on in the 18,126 sell-out crowd was Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez, who now plays for Qatar’s Al Sadd.