In what was supposed to be one of the most difficult Barcelona La Liga matches left, the Catalans made all the necessary work in a 12-minute span in the first half. Barcelona were magnificent in attack before the halftime break, and a brilliant overhead kick from Luis Suarez and a brace from Lionel Messi were more than enough for Barcelona to dispose of the slumping Sevilla.
Barcelona wasted no time and quickly took control of the match, immediately dominating possession and pinning Sevilla deep. Sevilla, who have been struggling lately, going winless in their last five before their Camp Nou trip, were having problems to contain Barcelona and less than four minutes in, Messi came within inches of opening the scoring. Suarez squared the ball to Messi, who fired from 20-yards out, but hit the crossbar, with the ball ricocheting back into play mere inches before the goal-line.
In the 7th minute, Suarez was brought down in the penalty area for a very probable penalty, but referee Carlos Clos Gómez would have none of it. Just moments later Barcelona had another claim waived off, this one for a Samir Nasri handball.
After starting the game brightly, Barcelona allowed Sevilla to get involved offensively and quickly the visitors took their first shot on target. Seemingly out of nowhere, Steven N'Zonzi was suddenly alone in front of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, set-up wonderfully by Vitolo after a throw in. The Frenchman went for goal from a tough angle through ter Stegen’s legs, but the German dropped his right knee to make the save.
Barcelona countered quickly with Ivan Rakitić winning the aerial duel inside the Sevilla area to threaten with a header, but the shot whistled wide of Sergio Rico’s right post. The end to end action continued with Sevilla threatening in the 24th minute – again from a set piece. Barcelona’s markers did a terrible job in front of ter Stegen, but Vicente Iborra’s header went over the bar.
The end-to-end action bore fruit for Barcelona in the 25th minute. Lionel Messi led Barcelona’s attack down the right side and sent a hopeful low cross in front, searching for Suarez. Gabriel Mercado intercepted the ball, but cleared it terribly, raising the ball in front of Rico – as it turned out perfectly for a Suarez bicycle kick. Suarez has been guilty of missing some sitters this season, but when the scoring opportunities get tough he has shined and this time was no different, as he powered the ball past Rico and into the back of the net for the Barcelona lead.
Barcelona doubled their lead just three minutes later. A Sevilla turnover in midfield led to a four on three Barcelona counterattack. Rakitic played Neymar behind the defense on the left, and from near the goal-line the Brazilian sent the ball through the goal-mouth, but nobody was there for the easy tap-in. On the far post, Saurez managed to square the ball back, finding Messi wide open in front. The Argentine wasted no time and sent a first-time shot on goal, finding the back of the net through numerous legs of Sevilla defenders and the goalkeeper Rico.
Another five minutes later, in the 33rd minute, Messi was again celebrating a goal, this time after a corner kick. The cross was sent in from the flag and on the near post Javier Mascherano headed the ball across to the far post where Rakitić caused enough problems to force a poor clearance from Nicolás Pareja. Pareja’s header proved to be the perfect assist for Messi’s powerful low volley that whistled past two Sevilla defenders and just inside Rico’s left post for a commanding three goal lead.
Sevilla were in shambles and Jorge Sampaoli quickly started preparing his first substitution, Pablo Sarabia, who was seemingly receiving his final instructions before entering, but the Spaniard would not see the pitch in the first half. Barcelona continued to dominate for the remainder of the half, with Neymar and Messi highlighting the play, but Sevilla’s defense held Barcelona at bay, sending the game to the halftime break with Barcelona up 3-0.
Sarabia would, however, join the game immediately after the break, as would Matías Kranevitter. Mercado and Nasri would stay in the dressing room. Barcelona, similarly to the first half, continued to control the pace of the game, but did so seemingly in low-gear as the three goal lead looked very safe. Regardless, Barcelona managed to create scoring chances, but without the urgency in attack and the need for a killer instinct, the Catalans failed to score despite having some good looks on goal, especially early in the second half.
Then Sevilla started to create chances offensively, with surprise omission from the starting eleven, Sarabia, playing a key role in the Andalusians’ attacks. Sarabia, playing a key role in build-up, fired off two shots just after the one-hour mark, but neither found the back of the net. While the second one just missed the target, the first was an absolute howitzer on target, but ter Stegen was in perfect position to make the save.
Quickly after Sarabia’s second shot, Luis Enrique made his first substitution of the game, replacing Suarez with Paco Alcacer. Paco was quickly involved in an excellent Barcelona scoring chance, but the highlight of that play was Messi’s through ball to set up Andres Iniesta one-on-one, but in the key moment Iniesta slipped and Rico was able to collect the ball.
In the very next minute, the 69th minute, Sarabia again tried his luck, this time with a powerful shot from distance, but again ter Stegen was perfectly positioned to make the save. In the 75th minute Sevilla made their final change, with Stevan Jovetić taking Iborra’s spot.
While Sevilla continued to push forward and Barcelona making numerous mistakes deep in their zone, Sevilla struggled to get good looks on goal. But when Barcelona attacked they often found themselves in a good spot to further extend their lead, but the Camp Nou wouldn’t see Barcelona score, even though Paco found himself all alone in front in the 78th minute after an excellent Iniesta pass, but Rico would make the save. The rebound shot would also miss the target. In quick succession Lucho then made his last changes, taking off Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitić, and replacing them with Lucas Digne and Carles Aleñá.
With time winding down, Sevilla accepted their fate and Barcelona were again able to step on the ball and not allow Sevilla to do anything. The Catalans continued to dazzle in attack, with Messi, Iniesta and Neymar showcasing their skill, but the fourth goal wasn’t meant to be. Barcelona’s last shot of the game came in added time, with Neymar firing from distance, but Rico was able to make the save and preserve the final score of 3-0 in favor of the Catalans.
Barcelona will be in action again on Saturday when they will take on Malaga at La Rosaleda.