Barcelona remain unbeaten to start the season and will be top of the La Liga table for at least one night thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sevilla at the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Friday evening. Barça played very well for all 90 minutes and created several huge chances, but they struggled to finish them and needed a Sergio Ramos own goal to get all three points and earn a crucial victory at home.
The first half was played at a very high level between two good teams who respected each other’s strengths and were extremely competitive and didn’t give the other an inch. The referee did a good job of allowing some physicality without calling unnecessary fouls, and the game had a nice flow to it as the two sides exchanged punches for 45 minutes.
Barça had more of the ball as they tend to do, and after a shaky start with a few poor passes and touches they began finding their groove and creating good openings with good passing variety and excellent movement. The best chance came when João Cancelo went on a brilliant run through three defenders and put it on a plate for João Félix, but his shot hit the crossbar and stayed out in a very unlucky moment for the Portuguese forward.
Jules Kounde came close to scoring against his former club with a header that went just wide off a corner from Ilkay Gündogan, and substitute Fermín López, who replaced Raphinha after the Brazilian left with a hamstring injury, missed a big chance to score for the second time in four days when Lamine Yamal found him with a gorgeous pass inside the penalty area but the young midfielder couldn’t generate enough power with his shot.
The best chances belonged to Barça but Sevilla had some dangerous moments of their own and both Ivan Rakitic and Dodi Lukébakio forced Marc-André ter Stegen into making a couple of solid saves to stop the away team from scoring, and the visitors showed they were very much alive and ready to pounce if given the chance.
At halftime a fun, competitive first half had no goals but plenty of action, and more entertainment was expected for the final period. Would Barça keep up the good work and find the winning goals or could Sevilla stay in it long enough to pull off the upset?
Barça came out strong from the halftime break and amped up the intensity with their pressing and work on the ball, forcing Sevilla to defend a lot deeper and resort to stronger challenges that led to fouls and yellow cards for the visitors as they tried to slow down the Blaugrana’s momentum.
The first 15 minutes had a lot of dangerous attacks and a few half-chances for the Catalans without a real opportunity to unlock the Sevilla defense, but the quality of the offense made it feel like the opening goal was just a matter of time as the home team increased the pressure and Sevilla’s defending became more and more last-ditch.
The hosts almost found themselves behind when Rakitic nearly scored a beautiful header that hit the side netting, but with 15 minutes to go Barça finally found a breakthrough: a beautiful cross from Ferran Torres found Lamine Yamal all alone on the right wing inside the box, and his header hit the leg of Sergio Ramos and went into the net for an own goal to give Barça the lead.
Sevilla had nothing to lose and made attacking substitutions looking to push for an equalizer, and they nearly found it when Jesús Navas made a run in behind the defense and tried to square it for Mariano Díaz but Kounde denied him with a sensational sliding tackle.
Barça were forced to defend their narrow lead and tried to keep the ball to run the clock out, and for most of the dying minutes they did the job almost flawlessly. They also created some more chances to score a second and kill off the game but couldn’t finish them, and had to do some desperate defending in the final seconds to secure all three points.
The final whistle came to guarantee the victory for the home team, and Barça really had to work to earn the win against a Sevilla side that played very well and brought the fight to the Catalan capital. A clean sheet is huge news considering the recent defensive struggles, and the attacking quality is also encouraging despite the poor finishing.
And let’s be honest, a 1-0 win courtesy of a Sergio Ramos own goal feels just as good — if not better — than a 5-0 destruction. This was a good night.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Cancelo, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Gündogan, Gavi; Yamal (Romeu 82’), Raphinha (Fermín 37’), Félix (Ferran 71’); Lewandowski
Goal: Ramos (OG 76’)
Sevilla: Nyland; Juanlu (Navas 82’), Badé, Ramos, Pedrosa (Suso 82’); Jordán, Sow (Fernando 66’); Ocampos, Rakitic, Lamela (Mariano 75’); Lukébakio (Acuña 75’)