A 93rd-minute injury-time winner from Alexis Sanchez provided a thrilling finish to tonight’s clash between Barça and Sevilla at Camp Nou. Dani Alves and Leo Messi had put Barça into a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead but two late goals from Sevilla including a 90th-minute equalizer from Coke looked set to end Barça’s 100% start to the league season until Alexis’s last-gasp strike gave a final twist to the match.
Tata Martino surprise card tonight was to give a first start of the season to Cristian Tello who played mostly on the right wing with little success. Neymar continued on the left side, providing more danger and also producing the first shot on target after Messi’s pass in the third minute but Sevilla keeper Beto turned the ball out for a corner. Six minutes later Beto needed to make another stop from Neymar as the Brazilian tried to curl one in.
Sevilla were looking very compact in defence, playing a 4-2-3-1 with French striker Kevin Gameiro looking a lone figure up front. The Andalusian team had to resort to foul means, especially on Neymar, to contain Barça early on and Vitolo, M’Bia and Jairo were all booked in the first half with M’Bia fortunate to stay on the field after a second possible yellow card offence was seen with leniency by referee Muñiz Fernandez.
Tello had a double effort in the 20th minute, his first shot being blocked before his second attempt brought a smart low save by Beto. However, Barça were finding it hard to make chances. Then in the 31st minute Neymar turned away from Coke on the half-way line and after an electric run he won a free kick on the edge of the area from which Messi sent a curler narrowly over.
Messi’s influence had been minimal in the first half hour then in the 35th minute he appeared on the right and made a terrific dash towards the area, the run came to an end but the attack continued with the ball finally arriving to Adriano who had replaced the injured Jordi Alba (out for three to four weeks) in the 15th minute, and when left-back Adriano sent in a deep cross it was met by right-back Alves who headed Barça into a 1-0 lead.
There had been very little seen of Sevilla in attack but three minutes later, as Piqué lay injured in the Sevilla penalty area, the Andalusians mounted a dangerous break which ended with Valdés diving to intercept a low cross as Camp Nou erupted in protest. Barça ended the half strongly with first Piqué heading Messi’s free kick against the bar, illegally according to Muñiz Fernandez, then Tello sent in Messi who failed to lift his shot over Beto, and then in the 45th minute Piqué surged forward before finding Tello who couldn’t squeeze the ball past Beto.
The failure to add a second goal would begin to weigh on Barça as the second half progressed. Sevilla, knowing there was nothing to lose, began to make forays into Barça’s half. The first warning came in the 58th minute after Jairo’s charge up the right with Piqué needing to make an important block to stop Vitolo’s shot. Barça’s attack was failing to make much headway, the attempts at 1-2s into the area were not coming off and the rebounds were falling to Sevilla players.
In the 63rd minute Victor Valdés got his footwork wrong and conceded a corner from which Cala rose at the near post to head a seemingly good goal. To Barça’s relief Muñiz Fernandez had seen an infringement and the goal was disallowed. From a possible 1-1 twelve minutes later Barça finally found a second goal. Fabregas had just come on for the injured Iniesta, and he immediately made an impact, opening the play on the left to Neymar who sent in a low cross that was swept home by Messi from eight yards.
The game should have been over at this point but in the 80th minute Vitolo made a tremendous run up the left, exposing both Mascherano and Piqué, and when the ball was crossed in, Rakitic was coming in from the right to slot the ball past Valdés. With the game now wide open at 2-1 Barça looked for a third. Beto saved from Fabregas and a minute later Fabregas sent the ball over after a good combination with Alexis. Sevilla had the chance for an equalizer but from another corner Cala’s header, this time, went over.
The tension built as Sevilla began to find more cracks in the Barça defence. In the 90th minute substitute Bryan Rabello sent in a dangerous cross from the left and Adriano was forced to put the ball out for a corner. Rakitic swung the ball deep to where Coke found himself unmarked to hook a volley in for the equalizer.
Camp Nou was stunned, and as Barça tried to recover Sevilla came close to making it 2-3 in the first minute of injury time as another substitute Marko Marin got into the area but curled his shot just wide. There was one final act however. Messi took the responsibility to make the run into the area, knocking the ball one side of the defender while zipping past him on his other side. Messi reached the ball just before it ran out of play and managed to pull the ball back into the goalmouth where Alexis appeared to stab home a dramatic winner.
The victory was much too close for comfort. Last-minute wins may be one of my favourite things in the whole world but seeing the team concede two quick goals for the second consecutive game is very worrying, especially as both against Valencia and tonight against Sevilla we came very close to throwing away a healthy lead. The team is still not quite finding its rhythm with both Xavi and Iniesta a long way from their best. For most of the game Messi was also disappointing but he showed why he is such a great player by scoring Barça’s second and brilliantly setting up the winner for Alexis. The main positives were the continued good form of Mascherano in defence and the exciting performance from Neymar. There was also good news for Barça two hours later as Gareth Bale and Real Madrid could only draw 2-2 at Villarreal, leaving Barça equal top with Atlético Madrid on 12 points with Villarreal and Real Madrid two points behind in third and fourth place, respectively.
Barça: Valdés 6.5; Alves 6, Piqué 6.5, Mascherano 7.5, Alba 6 (Adriano m15, 7); Xavi 6, Busquets 6.5, Iniesta 6.5 (Fabregas m74, 7.5); Tello 6 (Alexis m63, 7), Messi 7, Neymar 8.
Sevilla: Beto; Coke, Cala, Fernando Navarro, Moreno; Cristoforo (Marin m69), M’bia (Trochowski m58); Jairo (Rabello m83), Rakitic, Vitolo; Gameiro.
Goals: m36 Alves 1-0, m76 Messi 2-0, m80 Rakitic 2-1, m90 Coke 2-2, m93 Alexis 3-2.
Yellow cards: m8 Vitolo, m30 M’bia, m34 Jairo, m50 Coke, m65 Cala, m88 Adriano m90 Pinto.
Attendance: 76, 765