An injury to Lionel Messi marred Barcelona’s first victory in four matches in a 4-2 final over Sevilla on Saturday night at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.
The Argentine scored and had an assist on Philippe Coutinho’s opening goal before suffering what looks to be a hyperextended elbow after a hard fall midway through the first half, jeopardising his status for next week’s Clasico against Real Madrid.
Despite the big blow to their superstar, the Catalonians held firm and managed a third goal thanks to a Luis Suarez penalty kick before Pablo Sarabia’s goal via deflection spoiled the clean sheet. The two teams then traded late scores, with Ivan Rakitic rocketing in a volley before Luis Muriel swept in a right-footer.
The Messi injury will logically dominate the headlines, but this Barcelona victory would not have happened without the heroics of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German stopper was simply sensational in goal and twice in the second half was called on to make a double save that proved pivotal.
There was still no room for the disgruntled Arturo Vidal nor Ousmane Dembele in manager Ernesto Valverde’s starting XI, while Clement Lenglet slotted in at centre-back in place of the injured Samuel Umtiti and newfound favourite Arthur was also back in the starting line-up.
It was a pulsating start between the two teams and Barcelona wasted no time and striking first, as a beautiful build-up ended with Messi finding Coutinho and the Brazilian finishing past Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik for a 1-0 lead.
Sevilla weren’t about to get down on themselves and Guilherme Arana was inches away from pulling the Andalusians level just a minute later, but saw his shot bang off the post.
Back and forth the teams went and Messi was again on the rampage when he collected a Suarez pass on the left flank and cut toward the middle before unleashing one of his patented curling left-footers to double the lead 2-0.
As loud as the celebration was in the Camp Nou, it was just as quiet moments later when Messi took his hard tumble. The Argentine stuck out his right arm to break his fall and it bent awkwardly, leaving him grimacing in pain on the turf with what appeared to be a hyperextended elbow. Team trainers wrapped the arm and minutes later Messi departed the pitch to the warm applause of the home supporters, eventually being replaced by Dembele.
Even with the two-goal deficit, Sevilla still fancied at least a result with no Messi on the pitch, but there was still Ter Stegen to deal with. The German came up with two massive saves back-to-back, first pawing away a snapped header by Andre Silva and then blocking the follow-up shot from Mudo Vazquez.
It was a critical miss for the visitors, and less than a minute later Barcelona were on the break with Gerard Pique doing well to play to Sergio Busquets, who found the charging Suarez and the Uruguayan earned a penalty when he was taken down by Vaslik in the area. Suarez then stepped up and coolly converted from 11 metres out to extend the Barcelona lead to 3-0.
Outside of the Andre Silva and Mudo Vazquez chances, Sevilla were not doing enough to create in attack. It was some good fortune that finally got Sevilla on the board, as a Sarabia shot glanced off the head of Lenglet and rippled the net of the wrong-footed Ter Stegen, cutting the Barcelona lead to 3-1.
The goal gave Sevilla hope, and they looked on the verge of scoring a second but Ter Stegen had his Superman cape on and soared to stop a Sarabia shot before denying Muriel on the follow-up effort.
Rakitic was then able to put a bow on it, latching onto a ball spun up into the air and volleying in past Vaclik to make it 4-1. To their credit, Sevilla never stopped and Muriel made for a more respectable 4-2 scoreline with a stoppage time right-footer.
4- Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Arthur (Sergi Roberto, min. 66), Rakitic; Messi (Dembele, min. 26), Luis Suarez (Munir, min. 81), Coutinho.
2- Sevilla: Vaclik; Navas, Carrico, Kjaer (Mercado, min. 55), Sergi Gomez, Arana; Sarabia, Banega, Mudo Vazquez (Roque Mesa, min. 69); Ben Yedder, Andre Silva (Muriel, min. 78).
Goals: 1-0, min. 2: Coutinho; 2-0, min. 12: Messi; 3-0, min. 64: Suarez (p); 3-1, min. 79: Sarabia; 4-1, min. 88: Rakitic; 4-2, min. 91: Muriel.
Referee: Martinez Munuera (Castilla y Leon).
Yellow cards: Vaclik (Min. 63) for Barcelona.
Red cards: None.
Stadium: Camp Nou.