Barcelona went to one of the toughest stadiums in Europe and left with a 10-point lead at the top of the La Liga table thanks to an amazing 4-2 win against Sevilla. After a bad first half and a 2-1 deficit, Barça came back with a fantastic second half performance. Oh, and there was also a hat-trick from Lionel Messi against one of the best defensive teams in the league, but that doesn’t surprise anyone.
The first 20 minutes were pretty boring, with a lot of the action taking place in midfield and nothing happening in the final third for either side. Barça had more of the possession as expected but they did absolutely nothing with it, while Sevilla looked well organized at the back, just waiting for the right opportunity to strike and score on the counter.
And that happened when Barça lost the ball close to the box and the Rojiblancos went on a very fast counter attack that ended with a nice pass from Wissam Ben Yedder and a smart finish from Jesús Navas. The Blaugrana replied quickly, though, and that came thanks to a great cross from Ivan Rakitic and a spectacular strike from Lionel Messi, on the volley, into the top corner.
Barça improved and started to press more after the goal, but they continued to leave spaces behind and were bound to concede again if they made a mistake. Ter Stegen made that mistake just before the end of the half by clearing a ball poorly, and Sevilla pounced by scoring their second goal thanks to a Pablo Sarabia cross and an easy finish for Gabriel Mercado.
At halftime, Barça were playing terribly and Sevilla didn’t have trouble at all for most of the half. The team with the best players looked like a mid-table side, and they needed to get a lot better in the second half.
Ernesto Valverde made a rare double-substitution at halftime, with Sergi Roberto and Ousmane Dembélé replacing Nélson Semedo and Arturo Vidal. The team switched formations to a 4-2-3-1, with Dembélé, Messi and Philippe Coutinho playing as attacking midfielders to supply Luis Suárez up front.
Barça looked better on offense, creating more opportunities and finding more spaces inside the Sevilla defense. Their also pressed the ball high up the pitch, forcing Sevilla into making worse passes and losing the ball in dangerous positions; and after they got the ball back in the final third thanks to the press, Barça equalized thanks to another world-class goal from Messi.
The visitors continued to attack after the equalizer as they tried to find a winner, and Valverde brought Carles Aleñá off the bench to make the midfield more solid and free up Messi, Suárez and Dembélé to focus solely on scoring the decisive goal. And the goal came when Aleñá’s shot was deflected and fell into Messi’s feet, and the best player on Earth chipped the keeper to make it 3-2 with five minutes to go.
Sevilla naturally sent everbody and their mother forward trying to find a late equalizer, but Ter Stegen and the Barça defense stayed solid and kept the hosts from scoring. There was still time for Luis Suárez to join the scoring party, after an amazing pass from Messi gave him all the time in the world to chip the keeper and make it 4-2.
The final whistle came to end an incredible second half and confirm a spectacular victory for the leaders. This was a champion’s win, and Messi is the GOAT. What a Saturday.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo (Roberto), Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Vidal (Dembélé), Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suárez, Coutinho (Aleñá)
Goals: Messi (26’, 67’, 85’), Suárez (90’+3)
Sevilla: Vaclik; Mercado (Vázquez), Kjaer, Gómez, Wöber (Amadou); Navas, Banega, Rog (Roque Mesa), Promes; Sarabia, Ben Yedder
Goals: Navas (22’), Mercado (42’)