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La Liga: Sevilla FC 1-4 FC Barcelona: Match Review

A recap of Barcelona's 4-1 away win against Sevilla on Sunday evening, as the Blaugrana moved back to the top of the table courtesy of a superb display from Lionel Messi

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

FC Barcelona put last weekend’s shock defeat to Valencia CF firmly behind them tonight, leapfrogging both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid to regain first place in La Liga with a 4-1 away win over Sevilla FC at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuan. As Barça struggled to adapt to the difficult conditions in Andalusia, the hosts took the lead through Alberto Moreno, before Barcelona fought back thanks to a sublime display from Lionel Messi who set up the equaliser and scored two goals of his own to seize the initiative on his club’s behalf. Unai Emery’s side battled away to try and salvage something from the match, only to see Cesc Fàbregas secure the three points with a goal off the Barça bench.






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Despite a downpour of quite biblical proportions, tonight’s match was allowed to go ahead on a somewhat difficult Ramon Sánchez Pizjuan pitch, which had a quite visible problem with surface water. However, it was nowhere near as bad as it was nearly eight years ago, so there was no grounds for complaint, at least on those criteria. That being said, Gerardo Martino’s team selection was surprising; Sergio Busquets was demoted to the bench alongside Dani Alves, with Alex Song and Martin Montoya benefitting respectively. At least Andrés Iniesta returned to the midfield, but even he took the place of the in-form Cesc Fàbregas. Would these changes affect the Blaugrana in their bid to reclaim top spot, or would Martino’s tactical tinkering pay dividends?

It was evident from the get-go that whichever side mastered the conditions first would gain the upper hand over the other, and despite their home advantage, Sevilla didn’t particularly threaten to be that side. They quickly settled back into their own half, pressing only where necessary, or at least when sure they would benefit; after all, acceleration was that little bit more difficult on a watery playing surface.

As a result, Unai Emery’s side were set up to grab a goal on the counter-attack, rarely venturing out of their shell to sustain any kind of pressure against the Barça backline. Based on recent results, who can blame them for taking that approach? Well, considering Barcelona were missing three of their four first-team defenders and were resting their first-choice pivote, it was something of a shame not to see Sevilla confident of their own attacking prowess. Let’s face it, Barça aren’t exactly great at the back, so why not attack?

The reason, if it wasn’t clear already, became painfully obvious around the quarter-hour mark; even if Barcelona had dominated possession, they were not winning the territorial battle and soon enough, they were behind on the scorecards as well. A lovely move from Sevilla saw the hosts work the ball from the right byline into the Barcelona box and across to the left-centre edge of the area where full-back Alberto Moreno was on hand to try his luck.

And what do you know? Moreno had lady luck well and truly on his side, as his powerful effort was deflected away from his intended target and into the opposite corner of the net to gift Sevilla the lead. On reflection, they probably deserved that lead, but one couldn’t help but feel disappointed given the circumstances.

Maybe the goal would spark the Blaugrana into life? They knew that a win would allow them to reclaim top spot, and with over 70 minutes remaining, this match was by no means a lost cause. It could have been though; this time luck was on Barça’s side as after Alex Song was punished for his clumsy challenge on Ivan Rakitic with a yellow card, the Sevilla free-kick, ably delivered by the aforementioned Rakitic and well-met by Carlos Bacca rebounded off the frame of the goal and away from danger. While Sevilla were just inches away from doubling their lead, Barcelona were counting their lucky stars.

In nearly half an hour at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuan, Barcelona had scarcely troubled the Sevilla defense, let alone tested goalkeeper Beto. At the other end of the spectrum, Sevilla looked like scoring with every attack; Ivan Rakitic again was magnificent and it’s easy to see why he has been linked with Europe’s elite as he went close with a driven effort across Valdés’ goal.

They deserved to be ahead, that much was certain, but all it takes in football is one moment, one decision and the tides can turn. Nicolas Pareja was adjudged to have fouled Lionel Messi with what appeared to be an impeccably timed sliding challenge, and the resulting free-kick was headed in (!) by Alexis Sánchez of all people, who appeared to be a good yard or more offside when the cross was delivered. Of course, beggars cannot be choosers; we needed a goal, regardless of the context surrounding it.

And of all the players on our squad that needed a goal, Lionel Messi was uncharacteristically topping the list – but never fear; breaking away on a counter-attack, Barça worked the numbers game to draw the Sevilla defense out of position and Messi took advantage. Controlling the selfless pass from Pedro, Messi dropped a shoulder, shifted the ball onto his favoured left foot and rifled a shot into the far corner of Beto’s goal to complete the turnaround.

Did they deserve it? Not a chance, but since when did football care about who "deserved" the points?

Even after continued heavy rainfall over the half-time break, the second-half was allowed to commence as expected and while Barcelona appeared to emerge from their team talk an improved side, at least where pressing was concerned, they still had to ride their luck. A poor turnover in the defensive third gifted Vitolo a tremendous chance to level the scores at 2-2, but the Portuguese winger agonizingly dragged his effort wide of the post.

Alexis Sánchez threatened to create a good chance for the Blaugrana with his teasing low cross, but there was no-one there to capitalise, while the Sevilla squad were just lining up for a chance to equalise. Carlos Bacca forced a good save from Victor Valdés on a breakaway, before Kevin Gameiro lined up to tuck away the rebound, only to suffer the same fate.

Sevilla just weren’t being clinical enough, but fortunately, Lionel Messi was on hand to give them a finishing masterclass. His first touch to control Andrés Iniesta’s well-hit pass was magnificent, and somehow, Messi managed to work with the few inches of space he was allowed by the Sevilla defense to place the ball into the back of the net with a little assistance from the post. After a few weeks of "mediocre" performances, Lionel Messi was back.

Indeed, FC Barcelona were back. Barring a dramatic comeback, Barça would be back on top of La Liga, and were calmly stroking the ball around midfield, content to watch Sevilla chase the game both figuratively and literally. Emery made a couple of changes in a bid to change the game; Piotr Trochowski (who has previous for scoring against Barcelona) and Real Madrid loanee Denis Cheryshev were brought on, replacing the ineffective Vicente Iborra and Kevin Gameiro respectively.

Barcelona had to scramble away around the 70th minute mark as Federico Fazio cushioned a header into the danger zone following another good free-kick. While the methods were far from convincing, Barça did eventually clear their lines. Cesc Fàbregas replaced Pedro as Martino tinkered with his system, a switch which coincidentally coincided with a great chance for Sevilla, as Carlos Bacca powered his way past Marc Bartra only to hit the side netting with his attempt at goal. Even with a two-goal lead, this game was far from over for the Blaugrana.

Which is why they pressed on; inviting pressure clearly wasn’t a great idea with our defense, but scoring another goal would definitively put this game to bed. And Adriano came so close to doing just that; Lionel Messi timed the pass to perfection, but the Brazilian’s shot was always curling away from goal. Given that he is ambidextrous, it was surprising not to see Adriano place the ball with his right foot, but I suppose he is only a defender when all is said and done.

Sergio Busquets replaced Xavi as Martino tried to close out the remainder of the game, something the side did in style as Cesc Fàbregas nonchalantly lifted the ball into the back of the net after a great assist from Alexis Sánchez to grab Barça’s fourth of the night. Sergi Roberto was given a late run-out, but the game was finally over. Barcelona were back where they belonged – sitting pretty at the top of La Liga.

Next up, Barcelona look to secure their place in the 2014 Copa del Rey final, as they travel to the Basque Country to take on Real Sociedad after a 2-0 win in the first-leg at the Camp Nou. Until then, Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 653
Total commenters 33
Commenter list Anders Thomassen, BarcaLifer, BenX6, Bostjan Cernensek, BuehrleMan, Eddie Pundell, FCB4Ever, FCBMessi, GasperSM, Harshiv Karia, Kazzem, Lapulga, Maaz Rehman, NoImagination90, PatrickJM6, Ricardo Blonde, Richzorz, Ruy Diaz, Sebanovic, Shieldsteiger, ThreePar, Tokjee, Uncharted_Almo, ViscaViscaBarca, craig00000, damaso, feeya7, footballfordoze, hobo_barca, messi the best, pogis1991, teamshao, tgmgg
# Commenter # Comments
1 Bostjan Cernensek 81
2 pogis1991 65
3 NoImagination90 63
4 ThreePar 52
5 Anders Thomassen 49
6 Uncharted_Almo 39
7 teamshao 39
8 Ruy Diaz 34
9 messi the best 29
10 craig00000 23

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