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Sevilla 2-2 Barcelona, La Liga: Match Review

Recap of the action from Barcelona’s improbable comeback against Sevilla.

Barcelona were able to extend their unbeaten run to 37 games after a one-minute double-salvo late in the game to negate Sevilla’s two goal lead. The hosts dominated for large stretches of the game, taking the lead through Franco Vazquez in the first half before extending it early in the second after Luis Muriel buried a rebound. Barcelona’s streak was in serious danger, but late goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi secured a point for the Catalans.

With Messi relegated to bench duty due to a small injury and Sergio Busquets missing another game after a knock picked up before the international break, Ernesto Valverde was forced to make changes to his starting eleven. The defense went unchanged and Marc-Andre ter Stegen also recovered in time to start. Paulinho, Ivan Rakitić and Andres Iniesta started in midfield while Ousmane Dembele and Coutinho played wide. Suarez returned from his yellow card suspension to slot into his usual position.

Sevilla started the match brightly, testing Barcelona’s defense from the opening minute, but Samuel Umtiti and company handled the early threats very well. While the hosts looked to pin Barcelona back, it would be the visitors who would fire the first shot, with Suarez seeing his low try saved after a lovely run down the left wing by Coutinho.

The hosts continued to attack but with little success. The Catalans meanwhile looked dangerous on the counter attack, with their next scoring chance coming in the 9th minute. Dembele found Jordi Alba with a lovely pass on the left wing before the latter squared the ball into the middle to Suarez. The Uruguayan wasted little time and left-footed a shot but was let down by his aim.

Sevilla, however, continued to threaten and they were getting closer to ter Stegen. Barcelona’s defense was constantly under pressure, but due to some excellent blocks, especially from Sergi Roberto, ter Stegen went largely untested. In the 16th minute, Muriel had a chance from in close after a poorly cleared Gerard Pique corner kick but the Colombian missed the target.

Barcelona struggled with the high press, but the Catalans still managed to create scoring opportunities at times. Moments after Muriel’s chance Coutinho fired from distance, but right at Sergio Rico. Two minutes later Dembele tried to create something with his speed down the right wing, but Coutinho just couldn’t get on the receiving end of his low cross. From the ensuing corner kick Sevilla threatened on the counter attack, but Joaquín Correa’s header barely missed the target.

Sevilla’s attacking efforts continued as Barcelona were struggling to create much without the best player in the world. While there were moments of individual brilliance, most notably from Dembele and Coutinho, the Catalans couldn’t do much with the ball inside the hosts’ third. Still, Barcelona were dangerous on occasion as showcased by Dembele’s shot in the 32nd minute and the almost header from Umtiti moments later.

However, Sevilla were the better team and it could be viewed as a surprise that only one of their shots went on goal. That changed in the 37th minute - just seconds after Coutinho missed an easy interception that would’ve surely resulted in a dangerous chance for Barcelona. Instead, Sevilla’s attack continued and Correa showcased his playmaking abilities. After combining with Sergio Escudero, Correa found Vazquez six yards from goal in the middle of a five-man Barcelona zone, however, none of them was within five feet of the Italian. Vazquez was able to get just enough on the ball to get it past ter Stegen for the lead.

In the last minutes of the half Barcelona found more space in attack, even creating an excellent scoring opportunity in the 44th minute. The cross came in from the left side, and Pique, who remained forward after an earlier free kick, was left with a golden opportunity to tie the game. But seemingly unable to decide to go for a low(-ish) header or a high kick, Pique’s effort was poor and the ball trickled wide of the post. With no added time Sevilla went into the break up by one.

Vincenzo Montella, the home-side manager, made the only substitution during the break, with Miguel Layun replacing Gabriel Mercado. Barcelona were looking to improve on a sub-par first half, but Sevilla would have none of it, doubling their lead just five minutes after the restart. Correa was once again in the thick of it, setting up a shot for Escudero that was well saved. The rebound, however, fell right to Muriel who fired on goal. The slightest of deflections off of Umtiti meant that ter Stegen couldn’t get enough of the ball to direct it around the post, caroming into the net off the post.

Five minutes later Sevilla had the match-ball, as Jesus Navas went alone on ter Stegen. The Spaniard made a mess of it though, and ter Stegen did well to prevent a shot. Navas would still manage to get a shot off later in the play, but ter Stegen’s intervention allowed Pique to return and block the shot on the line. The rebound would once again find a Sevilla player, Vazquez, but his shot just missed the near post.

With the streak in severe danger, Valverde brought on Messi in place of Dembele. Messi’s magic was on display quickly as Barcelona suddenly started to click. In the 60th minute, Barcelona were seemingly on the verge of halving the deficit after a lovely doorstep pass from Coutinho. But just before Suarez could tap the ball in, Simon Kjær, who had another crucial block on Coutinho earlier in the half, cleared the ball away.

But Barcelona were attacking – and leaving acres of space behind but despite allowing several excellent chances on odd-man rushes Barcelona were still hanging on. But while the Catalans were attacking, chances were few and far between. The next one didn’t come until the 71st minute when Coutinho sent another very useful ball into the area to where Suarez was once again waiting for the tap in. However, once again, Kjær made a brilliant interception.

In the 77th minute, Paulinho was substituted off the pitch and replaced by Denis Suarez. Even with Messi on the pitch, Barcelona weren’t playing at their usually high standards and Sevilla found it all too easy to hold on to the ball. Four minutes later Valverde made his last personnel change as Paco Alcacer replaced Iniesta.

In the 87th minute, Denis sent a fabulous cross from the left wing right onto the head of Rakitić. Rakitić headed the ball on goal and with the smallest of tips Rico managed to tip the ball to the post – Barcelona’s second post of the match after Suarez’s tough angle shot earlier in the half.

But Barcelona continued to press forward and they were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 88th minute. The corner kick came in from the right side and after a deflection found Suarez on the back post where he, with an acrobatic finish, put Barcelona back in the game. Not even a full minute later the game was tied at two. Coutinho sent a lovely ball from the left wing to the center, about 25 yards from goal. There, Messi ran onto in, firing first time, beating Rico to save Barcelona from their first league defeat of the season.

Both sides looked to score the late winning goal, but neither would get a real chance to do so in just two minutes of added time. Somehow, Barcelona escaped the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium with a point and the streak intact. Despite the positive result, Barcelona will have to step it up on Wednesday against Roma in the Champions League.

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