It sounds like a cliché, but Lionel Messi has saved Barcelona from disaster. Once again, and how it has happened many times in the past.
The Argentinian superstar had one of his best performances of the season when Los Blaugranas needed him the most. Playing on a tough venue such as Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and against a Sevilla side that needed the three points, Messi came through in the clutch multiple times. He fininshed with a hat-trick and an assist, as Ernesto Valverde’s men cruised their way towards a huge 4-2 away win that solidified their stance as the league leaders.
Sevilla’s dominant first half pays dividends for the hosts
But things weren’t easy for Barca in the beginning.
Similar to what happened when these two sides met in the Copa del Rey earlier this year, Sevilla looked dominant in the early going and got themselves on top thanks to Jesus Navas. The former Manchester City winger took advantage of an excellent through ball from Wissam Ben Yedder, and coolly placed the ball out of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s reach. Messi equalised only four minutes later with an excellent strike; he smashed an impressive volley following a cross from Ivan Rakitic to make it 1-1 midway through the first half. That goal was definitively a sign of things to come for the Argentinian.
Sevilla would have one more punch in them, though. Three minutes before the break, a low cross from Pablo Sarabia found Gabriel Mercado, and the resilient right-back slotted the ball home against Barcelona’s surprisingly passive defensive unit. Los Nervionenses would head into the second half with a slim 2-1 lead, but they couldn’t hold on to their advantage. And Messi was the main reason why.
Lio does it all for Los Blaugranas
Down by one goal, Valverde tried to mix things up at the break. He sent both Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto to replace Arturo Vidal and Nelson Semedo, respectively, and the moves paid off. The French winger looked threatening on the ball, and set up Barca’s equaliser in the 67th minute, when he found Messi roaming free near the edge of the box. The five-time Ballon D’Or winner placed it into the top corner and out of Tomas Vaclik’s reach to even things up.
Messi wouldn’t be done, though. He scored the go-ahead goal in the 85th minute with another masterpiece. This time, he took advantage of a rebound and, when facing Vaclik one-on-one, he chipped the ball over the goalkeeper with a level of composure that you don’t normally see in most players. Especially considering it was in the 85th minute of an away game that was tied 2-2. But the hat-trick wasn’t enough, and Messi set up the fourth goal as well when he assisted Luis Suarez. An excellent lobbed through ball allowed the Uruguayan to lift the ball over Vaclik to close things out and make it 4-2 on stoppage time.
Barcelona didn’t play at their best, and at times they struggled to contain Sevilla. But Messi has that special ability that allows him to change the game at any given minute. And that’s exactly what he did in this game. He was the main reason why Barca secured a huge win that further extends their advantage at the top of the standings. And undoubtedly, he appeared – and delivered – when the team needed him the most.
Sevilla: Vaclik (4); Mercado (6) (Vazquez (5), 51′), Kjaer (5), Sergi Gomez (6), Wöber (5) (Amadou (5), 58′); Jesus Navas (7), Banega (5), Rog (4) (Roque Mesa (5), 62′), Promes (5); Sarabia (6); Ben Yedder (6)
Bench: Soriano (GK), Guilherme Arana, Andre Silva, Munir
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (5); Semedo (4) (Sergi Roberto (7), 46′), Pique (5), Umtiti (6), Jordi Alba (6); Vidal (5) (Dembele (7), 46′), Sergio Busquets (6), Rakitic (7); Messi (10), Suarez (8), Coutinho (7) (Alena (-), 79′)
Bench: Iñaki Peña (GK), Murillo, Lenglet, Malcom
Goals: Jesus Navas (1-0, 22′), Messi (1-1, 26′), Mercado (2-1, 42′), Messi (2-2, 67′), Messi (2-3, 85′), Suarez (2-4, 90+3′)
Referee: Antonio Mateu
Yellow Cards: Rog, Wöber, Vazquez, Kjaer, Sarabia, Roque Mesa (SEV); Pique (BAR)
Red Cards: None
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