Pedro Rodriguez came off the bench to once again score the deciding goal of a UEFA Super Cup in extra time. In the high scoring affair that featured stunning free-kick goals, defensive miscues and back and forth action, Barcelona managed to secure their first trophy of the new season. Lionel Messi led the way for Barcelona with two goals who also got goals from Rafinha, Luis Suarez, and the aforementioned Pedro, while the scorers for Sevilla were Ever Banega, Jose Antonio Reyes, Kevin Gameiro and Yevhen Konoplyanka.
|Shots on Target||10
With Neymar out with the mumps and Jordi Alba struggling with a muscle injury, Luis Enrique had some selection choices to make. Jeremy Mathieu started at left-back, and with Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves formed the back-four in front of Marc-Andre ter Stegen. There were no surprises in midfield, but in attack Lucho shocked the world by not naming Pedro next to Suarez and Messi. Instead, Rafinha started on the left-wing.
Sevilla came storming out of the gates, quickly charging toward the Barcelona goal, threating already in the second minute of the game when Mascherano brought down Reyes 22 meters from goal. Banega set himself up for the kick and sent an accurate shot to the near post. Ter Stegen positioned himself very close to the far post and only watched the ball as it crossed the line to put Sevilla in the early lead.
Barcelona seemed unrattled by the early goal and slowly but surely started attacking. In the 7th minute Suarez won a free kick 19 meters from goal, in a perfect spot for Messi. Of course, it was Messi who prepared to ball and in spectacularly accurate fashion curled the free kick over the wall, inside the post and just under the crossbar to bring the teams level on goals.
The home team, Barcelona in this case, calmly continued to hold on to the ball and continued in very attacking fashion, seemingly every other minute exposing holes in the Sevilla defense. Barcelona were extremely confident with the ball in attack, skipping past defenders and drawing fouls left, right and middle. Another key free kick for Barcelona came in the 15th minute when Banega brought down Ivan Rakitić in a much deeper position than the one on which Messi scored earlier. But that didn't seem to matter as Messi powered the ball into the same corner he did eight minutes earlier, again leaving Beto with no chance of making the save. With that goal Messi became the first player ever to score two free-kick goals in a European Super Cup and the first Barcelona player to score a free-kick brace since Ronaldinho against Real Betis in 2007.
Sevilla were clearly shocked by the Messi dead-ball brace and Unai Emery's men struggled to get going after their early goal. Barcelona were clearly superior on the pitch and it seemed just a matter of time before they would find the net again. They managed to do so in the 28th minute when Mathieu sent a lovely low ball in front of goal to Suarez who tapped it in to finish off a lovely team move. The goal, however, was ruled out for offside, even though the replay slowed the Uruguay international was still clearly onside at the time of the pass.
While Sevilla found it difficult to threaten the Barcelona goal, it would've been foolish to call the game over. Sevilla are a terrifically talented team that came from two goals down to tie the Catalans last season in a Spanish League game. Sevilla might have often found themselves pinned back by Barça, but the Andalusians showed before that they don't need much space to get close to ter Stegen. Barcelona's defenders were very well positioned in the first half on plays in which Sevilla ventured into Barça's half and apart from a couple perimeter shots the visiting team didn't have a single scoring chance from open play until the 41st minute. That's when Vitolo took advantage of too much space given to him by Mathieu. Vitolo's low drive made it past the Barcelona goalkeeper and an equalizer was in the air, but Alves was able to clear the ball away from Vicente Iborra.
It was a clear warning sign that Barcelona couldn't afford to sit back. And the Catalans decided there is no time like the present to make Sevilla's task more difficult. Rakitić sent a stunning 50-yard pass to Suarez who escaped his defenders in the 44th minute. Going one-on-one against Beto, Suarez opted to aim for the far post, but the Portuguese shot-stopper read his intent and made the save. The ball fell back to Suarez who showed incredible composure to hold on to the ball and wait for help from his teammates. The helped arrived in the image of Rafinha, whom Suarez found through the legs of Michael Krohn-Dehli, and the versatile player made no mistake, tapping the ball past Beto and into the back of the net.
That would be the last chance of the first half, in which Barcelona secured an important two goal lead and for the first time ever in a European Super Cup match scored three goals. Not to be outdone by the team record, Messi also became the first player to score two goals in the first half of a European Super Cup match.
Sevilla tried to surprise Barcelona with another charge out of the gates, but this time the Catalans were ready. Not only did the Barcelona defenders handle the attack with little to no trouble, it were Barcelona who threatened first, through a dangerous Suarez shot from the edge of the area.
Barcelona continued with the high pressure, a tactic that was very successful in the first half, and it came to fruition again in the 51st minute, when Sergio Busquets intercepted an errant Sevilla pass in transition. Busquets quickly sent the ball forward to Suarez who found a soft spot in between the two Sevilla center-backs. This time around the Uruguayan made no mistake facing Beto one-on-one, firing the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper to extend Barcelona's lead.
Sevilla were always going to be facing an uphill climb in the second half, but that hill became even higher now. But the Andalusians weren't ready to raise the white flag. In the 56th minute Sevilla pulled one back after Reyes, inexplicably left uncovered by Mathieu, calmly slotted home a cross from the left side.
Barcelona again tried to immediately get the goal back as they did in the first half, but even though they came very close on a couple of occasions the score remained the same. Just two minutes after the goal Rafinha powered a shot on goal, but Beto was able to make the save. Three minutes later, Rafinha excellently connected with a Rakitić corner kick, but was denied by the crossbar. On the first of the two plays that included Rafinha, Andres Iniesta picked up a knock on the ankle and even though the Barcelona captain returned to the pitch Lucho decided it was not worth risking a bigger injury and replaced him with Sergi Roberto.
Needing fresher legs in attack, Emery opted to make a substitution in the 68th minute, replacing the goal scorer Reyes with debutant Konoplyanka. Sevilla's attacking aspirations were given a boost by the fact that Barcelona dialed down the pressure. Sevilla therefore sensed a chance to get back into the game after being down by as much as three goals.
Those hopes were given a bigger lift in the 71st minute when Mathieu made another mistake defensively, this time brining down Vitolo in the area, giving a penalty kick to Sevilla. Gameiro, who was largely invisible throughout the game, set himself up and powered the ball past the patiently waiting ter Stegen.
Barcelona were clearly shell shocked, struggling to take the ball away and were forced to cope with an immense press from Sevilla. Enrique decided the best way to hold on to the lead until the final whistle was to bring on an extra defender in place of a forward. So, in the 78th minute he brought Bartra on for Rafinha. Emery countered that move by taking off Gameiro and Iborra and replacing them with Ciro Immobile and Mariano. Emery was the clear winner of those subs, as just three minutes later, Immobile stole the ball away from Bartra and found Konoplyanka on the far post to tie the game at four in the 81st minute.
Both teams had chances to score the winning goal in the dying minutes of the game, but neither managed to do so. Messi came to closest in the 89th minute when he fired another brilliant free kick, this one from over 30-yard out, but the ball just barely missed the target.
Referee William Collum blew the whistle after three minutes of added time, sending the game to extra time with the score tied at four, after Barcelona blew a three goal lead in just over 30 minutes. It would be Barcelona's second UEFA Super Cup extra time, the first one coming in 2009 when Pedro scored the winner against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Hoping for a similar outcome, Lucho put Pedro on the pitch three minutes after the restart, replacing Mascherano. It was a clear sign that Lucho was discarding the defensive, double pivot tactic and going back to the title-winning 4-3-3 formation.
In the 96th minute, Pique was forced to seek treatment on the sidelines after getting struck heavily in the nose by an errant Immobile elbow who was already on a yellow card, though a second yellow never seemed in question as the referee didn't even call a foul. That was just one of quite a few of plays that Collum blew dead earlier in the game, but did not once the extra time period started.
The extra time was played nervously, with a lot of broken plays and very little chance-creation on both sides. Sevilla seemed content to sit back and wait for a Barcelona mistake, while Barcelona played the ball around a very dense defensive line. But even though it were the Catalans who looked likelier to score judging from play, it would be Sevilla who would take the only shot on target of the first extra time, but ter Stegen made easy work of Mariano's attempt.
Sevilla started the second part with higher pressure, but after Immobile wasted an early chance Sevilla would go back to playing defensively and looking for chances on the counter. With players of both teams tiring the tempo of the game slowed, but Barcelona continued to look for the slightest of openings in the Sevilla defense. In the 115th minute Messi forced an opening, winning a free kick 22 meters from goal. Messi took it, hit Krohn-Dehli in the hand but play continued. The ball fell back to Messi who wasted no time and fired on goal again. This time his attempt made it through a sea a bodies, but Beto was able to palm the ball away, however, only to the charging Pedro who roofed the ball over the keeper to put Barcelona back in front.
Like in regulation, Sevilla quickly went on the attack and not once, not twice, but three times came close to tying the game yet again. They came the closes when Banega found Coke, who eluded Bartra, but send the header just inches wide of the post. Sevilla's last chance came in added time of extra time when Barcelona completely forgot about Immobile, who excellently found Adil Rami on the far post, but the center-back reacted poorly and his close range shot went sailing wide of goal.
The brilliant final came to an end when in the 122nd minute the referee blew for full time, sending Barcelona players to rejoice in midfield. Barcelona were able to celebrate their fourth title of the year 2015, leaving their dream of a second sextuple alive, but the defensive issues will have to be addressed if the Catalans want to achieve that feat once again.
Now onto the Supercopa de España.
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