In an incredible second half Barça overturned a 2-0 deficit to win 2-3 at Sevilla to maintain a 100% start to the league season. A first half strike from Piotr Trochowski followed by a brilliant solo effort from Alvaro Negredo early in the second half put Sevilla in a commanding position. However, Cesc Fabregas struck back to keep Barça in the game, and then following Gary Medel’s foolish sending off with twenty minutes to go, Cesc fired in an 89th minute equalizer before substitute David Villa won all three points for Barça with an injury time winner.
Barça began the game reasonably well with Pedro firing one over in the second minute. Messi was looking busy, combining well with his teammates first to send Pedro away on the left, though the cross ended up in Palop’s hands, and then in the 13th minute he played a wall pass off Xavi before playing the ball into the area to Cesc who played a clever flick back but Messi’s final low shot was well saved by the diving Palop.
However, we were not looking very solid at the back, Song’s position looked a bit off at first (though he improved to have a generally good game) and early on he allowed Negredo enough room to control and shoot but the shot went well wide of the far post. We were also suffering some poor individual mistakes with Alba and Alves particularly guilty, in the 19th minute Alba gave the ball away in the area and the ball came back to Ratikic whose low shot was comfortably saved by Valdés.
Sevilla were beginning to get on top and in the 26th minute they took the lead. Busquets was pressing on Ratikic who found Medel in space just inside our half, our back four dropped off as Busquets tried to get across to Medel who brought the ball forward before shooting from 30 yards, there didn’t seem much danger but the ball deflected off Mascherano and shot across the area to Trochowski who was allowed too much space by Alves and fired low past Valdés.
We almost hit straight back. Alba got forward on the left and crossed, Fabregas went for the high ball with Palop who only succeeded in a soft punch that fell to Messi, who looked sure to score just eight yards out, but his volley was blocked by Maduro’s last-gasp lunge. However, for the rest of the first half we played rather poorly, failing to find a way through Sevilla’s well-organised and packed defence. Negredo had a 25-yard effort curl just wide for Sevilla, and it wasn’t until first half injury time that we had another try on goal but Fabregas’s shot from the edge of the area was blocked.
Things were not looking good and early in the second half Sevilla struck again in what seemed to be the killer blow. Busquets gave a poor ball to Messi who was robbed by Medel who sent a quick ball forward to Negredo, Song came across but Negredo showed strength to shrug off the challenge, and then class to lift the ball past Valdés and in.
Again we came close to an immediate reply. Alba sent in a deep cross which reached Pedro who volleyed back towards the far post but Botia was there to clear off the line. Fortunately, we got a break soon after. In the 53rd minute Messi played the ball forward towards Pedro whose progress was blocked by Spahic but the ball broke back to Fabregas who fired in an excellent low drive from 25 yards.
It was a good time to pull a goal back with plenty of time to push for another. Alexis had another disappointing game with his best chance coming in the 57th minute but he pulled his shot wide of the near post after cutting in from the left. We had a few dangerous free kicks in the second half which generally all came to nothing, however, the best effort came in the 59th minute but Palop made a superb flying save, tipping the ball over to prevent Messi’s 30-yard curler from finding the top corner.
The game was looking pretty even at this point with Sevilla still threatening to hit us with fast counters. Then in the 71st minute Medel walked away with the ball in his hands after the referee Mateu Lahoz had blown for a Barça free kick, Fabregas ran up behind him to grab the ball roughly away and the two players then did the typical squaring up to each other with heads leaning in, there were no arms raised but after a minimal touching of heads Cesc made out he’d been headbutted and Mateu Lahoz had no hesitation in pulling out the red for the Sevilla midfielder.
Medel had been Sevilla’s most important player but Barça failed to make the numerical advantage count as Sevilla sat deeper to defend their lead. Vilanova brought on Tello, Thiago and Villa but our attacks were coming to nothing. Time was running out and Sevilla looked to be holding on to a well-deserved victory. Then in the 89th minute a poor clearance was intercepted by Thiago with the help of an unintentional handball which the ref decided to ignore, Thiago played it quickly to Xavi who knocked it on to Messi, who had been particularly poor in the second half, but this time Messi found his pass and Fabregas banged in the equalizer from close in.
Sevilla’s coach Michel complained about the handball and was sent off and the fourth official signalled five minutes of injury time. With just over 92 minutes on the clock Villa played a one-two with Messi, skipped past Spahic’s challenge before whipping a quick left-foot strike past Palop for the winner. There was no coming back from a dejected Sevilla and the win makes it six out of six in the league equaling our previous best starts to the season.
Obviously, a win at Sevilla is a fantastic result and even more so given their strong start to the season. We can always expect to suffer in the Sanchez Pizjuan but today we were looking defeat in the face after 50 minutes. There were some pretty irregular performances with Alves and Alexis probably the worst of the bunch. I could easily have put Fabregas and Messi in the same group as they both spent long periods where nothing was working out, however, they both finally played important roles in the goals and for Cesc, particularly, this should be a welcome boost to his confidence.
We got away with it today, but we now have two massive tests coming up this week, Benfica on Tuesday then the clásico with Madrid next Sunday. We will definitely need to play a lot better than today (or get an equal amount of good fortune) if we are going to win those games.
Sevilla: Palop, Cicinho, Botía, Spahic, F.Navarro; Maduro, Medel; Jesus Navas, Rakitic (Kondogbia m75), Trochowski (Manu del Moral m37); Negredo (Luna m80).
Barça: Valdés 6; Alves 5 (Villa m79, 7), Song 6.5, Mascherano 6, J.Alba 6.5; Xavi 6, Busquets 5.5 (Thiago m75, 6.5), Fabregas 7; Pedro 6, Messi 6, Alexis 5 (Tello m70, 6).
Goals: m26 Trochowski 1-0, m48 Negredo 2-0, m53 Fabregas 2-1, m89 Fabregas 2-2, m93 Villa 2-3.
Yellow cards: m28 Rakitic, m70 Busquets, m74 Pedro, m95 Botia.
Red cards: m71 Medel, m89 Michel.