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La Liga: FC Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla FC: Match Review

A review of Barcelona's comeback win over Sevilla at the Camp Nou

David Ramos

Barcelona recovered from a disappointing first-half performance to secure a comeback victory against Unai Emery’s Sevilla on Saturday evening at the Camp Nou. The win, which temporarily extends Barça’s lead at the top of La Liga to a staggering fifteen points, comes courtesy of second-half goals from David Villa and Lionel Messi; not bad for a team in crisis...






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With Tuesday’s Copa del Rey Clasico in mind, Jordi Roura made six changes to the side that lost 2-0 at the San Siro against AC Milan, as Javier Mascherano, Martin Montoya, Alex Song, Thiago Alcântara, David Villa and Alexis Sánchez were all granted a place in the starting XI. Carles Puyol dropped out of the squad altogether as a precautionary measure following a nasty collision with Giampaolo Pazzini in Wednesday’s defeat while the other five simply took their place on the bench. Despite the changes, Lionel Messi started in attack, with Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué also starting in midfield and defense respectively. Would the Blaugrana be able to secure the three points and build up some momentum heading into an El Clasico double-header?

Unai Emery also took the chance to rotate one key member of his starting XI, as Alvaro Negredo dropped to the bench for tactical reasons with Senegalese forward Baba Diawara taking his place as the lone-front man. After watching Milan shut-up shop to great effect at the San Siro, Emery favoured a slightly more open approach. Sure, the defense was disciplined and he ensured that plenty of men were behind the ball whenever Barça got the ball, but there was at least some space for the Blaugrana attack to exploit. As per usual, Messi was at the forefront of Barcelona’s early pressure and he created the game’s first chance with a nice through ball to Andrés Iniesta who had found space on the left. Iniesta proceeded to skip past the sliding challenge of Coke, but in doing so he also allowed Sevilla the time to recover and block his goal-bound shot.

It took Barcelona ten minutes to register another shot – as Messi struck a free-kick into the Sevilla wall – but they were slowly but surely beginning to exert control over the game. Sevilla dropped a little deeper; gave away possession a lot more frequently and it wasn’t long before Barcelona started to carve out chances. Dani Alves came close to breaking the deadlock on 21 minutes, as his long-range effort left Beto flat-footed, but his shot was deflected behind for a corner kick. Surprisingly, Barça created another chance from that corner as the ball was worked to Lionel Messi at the far-post, who forced a nice save from Beto with a well-struck right-footed shot. Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the same of Messi’s free-kicks; the Argentine failed to hit the target with even one of his three first-half free-kicks and typically, he was made to rue those misses as Sevilla took the lead just minutes before half-time.

It was a relatively simple goal to concede as well; Martin Montoya misjudged the flight of a Sevilla free-kick allowing Coke the space to deliver a cross into the heart of the Barcelona defense, where Alberto Botia capitalised on a defensive mismatch to climb above Dani Alves and head Sevilla into the lead. Maybe this was the wake-up call that the players needed; now a goal down at the Camp Nou, Barça appeared to up the intensity and they could have levelled the scores before the break – if only someone had taken a chance on Montoya’s low cross.

Jordi Roura made a change at the interval, replacing Alexis Sánchez with Cristian Tello and the Spaniard made an instant impact. Everyone knows that Tello has pace to burn and if the first few minutes of the second-half were anything to go by, Coke just couldn’t cope, and just as Tello was forcing the issue with Coke, Barça began to force the issue with the rest of the Sevilla defense. Unsurprisingly, an equaliser soon followed.

Credit to Dani Alves for providing the assist with a picture-perfect cross, but what about the header from David Villa? In his first match back from illness, Villa had understandably struggled to impose himself in the first-half but he was ready to make an impact, peeling off Alberto Botia to convert from the edge of the six-yard box. It was Villa’s twelfth goal of the season and a fitting reminder of the extra dimension El Guaje brings to the Barcelona attack.

Was the crisis over? Clearly Barcelona remain perfectly capable of scoring goals – despite the hysteria after Wednesday’s loss – and just to hammer that point home, Lionel Messi completed the comeback on the hour-mark, slotting home from ten yards after a selfless cut-back from Cristian Tello. It was Messi’s 38th La Liga goal of the season and Tello’s fifth assist; whatever Roura (or Tito) said at half-time, it was working: Barcelona were back.

Emery was determined to spoil the party though, immediately responding with a substitution of his own as Alvaro Negredo replaced the ineffective Baba in attack. They obviously fancied their chances against a shaky Blaugrana defense, but Roura recognised the danger, and introduced Xavi to the fray. The idea was relatively straight-forward: Sevilla needed possession to score an equaliser and Xavi was the man who could keep that from happening; but the execution was lacking. Sevilla were still threatening and came within inches of an equaliser through substitute Alvaro Negredo, so Roura went one step further and brought Sergio Busquets on for David Villa. This necessitated a slight tactical reshuffle, but Barça responded to the change well and looked slightly more assured as a result. Sevilla were now finding it difficult to even win possession let alone engineer a chance at an equaliser, and thanks to some composed defending in injury-time from Mascherano, Barcelona managed to hold out for a valuable victory.

Next up, Barcelona host Real Madrid in a Copa del Rey semi-final second-leg before, yep, you guessed it, facing Los Blancos in yet another Clasico next Saturday. Until then, Visca el Barça!

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