Friday, November 24, 2017

Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla: Alcacer advances Barca’s title charge

Dan Steeden in Editorial, La Liga 4 Nov 2017

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Barcelona welcomed Eduardo Berizzo’s Sevilla to the Camp Nou as they looked to extend their lead at the top of La Liga. The Catalan super club went into this game with an unbeaten record to start to the season, with nine wins and a draw from their 10 league games. Despite this remarkable record the Blaugrana haven’t actually been particularly inspiring thus far, and the slow starts of the two Madrid clubs perhaps masks some of their inadequacies. Sevilla meanwhile were flying high in fifth place as the approached this tricky fixture, and knew that they needed to trip Barca up on their home turf in order to keep pace with the teams above them.

Paco Alcacer poaches an opener

It was a wet and windy night in Catalonia but the home side were as silky and smooth in possession as their reputation requires them to be. Lionel Messi had a good early chance to make his 600th game for Barcelona a memorable one, but Soria made a nervy save to deny the Argentinian. Chances also fell to Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez inside the first five minutes but neither could find a clinical enough finish early on. Barca kept up the relentless pressure and stifled Sevilla with impressive vigour, pressing incredibly high up the pitch and unsurprisingly dominating the possession figures.

Sevilla struggled to get a foothold in the game, but Luis Muriel did have a chance on the break after catching Samuel Umtiti in possession. The Colombian striker ran at the retreating Gerard Pique before unleashing a shot, but the ball flew high and wide of the post and the valuable opportunity was squandered. To their credit the visitors dealt well with much of the pressure from Ernesto Valverde’s side, but the remarkable patience and surgeon-like approach of Barcelona’s attacking players paid off after 20 minutes. It was Paco Alcacer who grabbed the opener, capitalising on a defensive error from Escudero to nip in and slot home a cool finish, exhibiting his impressive poacher’s instinct.

Barcelona cruise but can’t find a cutting edge

The Barcelona striker had an opportunity to double his lead just moments after opening the scoring, but this time he attempted a dummy to allow the ball to roll on to Suarez. The Uruguayan couldn’t quite get in front of the Sevilla defender to tap the ball into the empty net, but the chance served as further proof that the visitors were hanging on by the skin of their teeth. However rather than falling further behind the visitors went on the offensive, starting to put together some cohesive attacks while trying to catch Barcelona on the break.

Despite their mini resurgence however Muriel’s early chance was Los Nervionenses’ best of the half, though they did slow the tempo of Barca’s attacks and compete for second balls more effectively as they grew into the game. The rain continued to pour as the half time break approached, but Lionel Messi’s talent transcends weather. The slippery winger toyed with Sevilla and put together some dazzling play around the box, only for Alcacer to slip at the vital moment and miss out on doubling Barca’s lead on the stroke of half time. Consequently the Blaugrana went into the break with only a slender lead, despite utterly dominating the first 45 minutes.

Pizarro pierces the Barca back line

The second period began in similar fashion to the first, with Muriel being given far too much run to room but ultimately firing over the bar. The shot seemed to be a signal that Sevilla would set up more offensively as they attempted to chase the game, but Barcelona soon settled back down into possession. The visitors looked at their most dangerous on the break, as they had done for much of the first half, but lacked the required quality in the final third to really cut through the Barca defence.

As the hour mark approached it was Sevilla who started to maintain possession better and really put pressure on the home side. Sarabia had a glorious chance to equalise after a good lay-off pass from Muriel, but Umtiti recovered well to clean up, eventually conceding a corner. It was from this set piece that the visitors did manage to get the goal that their attacking play deserved when Pizarro connected with a brilliant downwards header, beating Ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal and bringing Sevilla level.

Unfortunately for the visitors the goal seemed to spur Barcelona on and they hit back almost instantaneously. Some good work from Rakitic on the right wing led to a brilliant cross, which was attacked by Alcacer at the near post and squeezed in past Soria.In a bizarre move the striker was substituted immediately after scoring his second goal of the game, but his impact had been felt as the home side were back in front and back in control.

Messi and co see out an important victory

Retaking the lead instilled in Barcelona a confidence that allowed them to play with flair and skill, and Messi saw his low driven shot saved by Soria as he continued his hunt for a goal. The game became much cagier as the clock ticked down however and Sevilla started to press for an equaliser in the closing minutes. Wissam Ben Yedder replaced Muriel to aid in this quest but the Frenchman struggled to even get a touch as Barca defended with verve.

The game became an end-to-end affair in the final minutes as Barca looked to put the game out of sight on the break, and Sevilla tried desperately to salvage a point. The visitors struggled to create anything clear-cut however, as had been the story for most of the game, and on the referee’s final whistle it was Barcelona who ran out as winners. It was a much closer game than Valverde would have wanted, but his side claimed another three crucial points.

Final Thoughts

Despite the result this was yet another instance of Barcelona dominating a game but somehow only doing just enough to come away with the result. The worrying signs are that Luis Suarez’s goal drought seems to be affecting the striker’s confidence, and the Catalan club’s defence again looked like it could be exploited. However the positive performance from Paco Alcacer at least gives Barca another option in the problem position created by Ousmane Dembele’s absence, and this game represented another three points gained towards the Liga title.

Sevilla can perhaps be disappointed that they didn’t manage to get at least a draw from this game, especially given that Barcelona weren’t at their most clinical. However Los Nervionenses remain fifth in the Liga table for now and are still in a brilliant position going forward as they look to challenge for a Champions League place for next season.

Match Report

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic (Mascherano, 90’), Busquets, Iniesta (Paulinho, 60’); Messi; Suárez, Alcácer (Deulofeu, 66’)

Sevilla: Soria; Corchia, Kjaer (Geis, 74’), Lenglet, Escudero; N’Zonzi, Pizarro; Navas, Banega, Sarabia (Nolito, 62’); Muriel (Ben Yedder, 76’)

Goals: Alcacer (1-0, 23’), Pizarro (1-1, 59’), Alcacer (2-1, 65’)

Referee: Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez

Yellow Cards: Messi (90+4)

Red Cards: None

Player Ratings 

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 7; Semedo 7, Piqué 7, Umtiti 6, Alba 7; Rakitic 8 (Mascherano n/a), Busquets 7, Iniesta 6 (Paulinho 6); Messi 8; Suárez 6, Alcácer 9 (Deulofeu 6)

Sevilla: Soria 6; Corchia 6, Kjaer 6 (Geis 6), Lenglet 6, Escudero 5; N’Zonzi 6, Pizarro 7; Navas 6, Banega 7, Sarabia 6 (Nolito 6); Muriel 7 (Ben Yedder 6)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Steeden


Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham and an often frustrated Wigan Athletic fan. When not despairing at events unfolding at the DW Stadium he can be found fangirling over Antoine Griezmann or staying up into the early hours of the morning to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks.

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