FC Barcelona and Sevilla played out a thrilling game at Estadi Olimpic last night, in which the Catalan giants reigned supreme over “Blanquirrojos”, and went on to defeat them by the slightest of margins of 1-0. Sergio Ramos’ own goal would be the talk of the night as he scored a poetic header to write things off for Barca, as the defending champions goes to the top of La Liga table.
FC Barcelona edges past Sevilla
FC Barcelona and Sevilla always promises to be a sturdy encounter, whenever these two heavyweights lock horns. A match with reputation at stake for both teams, it is just waiting for the perfect moment to prowl for a goal, as neither teams would give the other a perfect chance to score, leaving nothing for their opponents. Last night witnessed one of the greatest matches this season, with both sides going for the kill, but being impeded from the opponent defense. Barcelona, who had suffered a mid-week failure against Mallorca when they fought a stalemate of 2-2, was desperate to make a comeback at their home stadium, thus vying to go on top of the table, which was previously held by surprise leaders Girona. The defending champions, whose injury list keeps on adding after each game, was without several key players in the form of Frenkie De Jong, Pedri, but tactician Xavi managed to keep rotating his star players, which is proving fruitful in each games.
Xavi, with his several key players missing out, had changed his formation from the game against Mallorca, as he fielded his prime striker Lewandowski to spearhead the attack. The former Barcelona midfield maestro had started with his favorable 4-3-3 formation, with a slight tweak at the defense, which saw the Uruguayan wall Araujo missing out. The defensive set-up comprised of Cancelo, Kounde, Christensen and Balde. The midfield had Gundogan, Gavi and Raphinha among the ranks, with the forward setup having youngster Lamine Yamal and Joao Felix flanking Robert Lewandowski.
For Sevilla, the ‘Blanquirrojos’ started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lukebakio to shoulder the responsibilities of an attacking forward. Former Real Madrid defensive stalwart and a legendary star for Spanish football, Sergio Ramos marked his return to Barcelona, as Ivan Rakitic was the star at midfield.
A sturdy first-half
With three points at stake, both teams were seen sweating out in the field. With two Joaos of Barcelona on the starting line-up, who have spun their magic web in the Catalan ranks, it was expected to be a creative play in the middle. Barcelona was hardly letting go off the ball in the initial stages, having a tight hold of possession, and Xavi would have been content with that. Sevilla midfielders were working very hard to prevent any ball from coming to the feet of Robert Lewandowski, and were gradually getting successful in it, as the Catalans were compelled to look to their wingers to draw the first blood. Barca did get the chance to get a lead in the score as Joao Felix, the latest star recruit for Barca, who is impressing Barca fans with his swashbuckling playing style, fired a shot at the edge of Sevilla box, which was saved by opponent custodian Nyland.
Three minutes post Barcelona’s attack, Sevilla got the opportunity to fire one-up, after a faltering Barcelona opportunity to lose the ball falls before former Barca star Rakitic, who took matter in his own hands to hit a shot, but reigning Zamora trophy winner from last season, Ter Stegen crafted a flashing save to keep score 0-0.
Barcelona had flurry of opportunities, with Lamine Yamal and Joao Felix working their magic into the box, but were somehow not destined to score in the first half. The Portuguese Felix, combining with his compatriot Cancelo, have been a real livewire for Sevilla defenders, as they were constantly planning and setting up chances to make further inroads in the game.
On the 27th minute, Kounde got one chance to score the lead, as he connected with the corner quickly, but could not direct the header into the goal, thus Sevilla escaping, Barca was playing with real purpose and Sevilla could feel the heat, owing to the classy inroads Barca starlets Lamine and Felix were making. Barcelona were staring at a further injury of Brazilian winger Raphinha, as he seemed to have injured his right hamstring while stretching for the ball, and was forced off, thus adding more to Barca’s injury woes. Youngster Fermin Lopez got the nod of Xavi to replace Raphinha, as the youngster was rewarded for his performance last night against Mallorca, where he scored his debut goal for the Catalans. After some missed opportunities for both sides, the teams went in to half-time, all square.
Sergio Ramos’ own goal- a poetic fate
As the second half kicked-off, with the game poised for a climactic finish, it was Sevilla who wanted to draw the first blood. On the 50th minute, Sevilla stopped Juanlu was instrumental in setting the ball to Lukebakio at Barca defense, only to find the striker hurling the ball over the bar, thus missing a golden chance to go ahead. Few minutes later, it was Fermin from Barcelona who had passed a cute assist to Lewandowski, with the Pole looking to chip over Nyland, but Juanlu got into picture at the right moment, as his slight touch deflected the ball past the crossbar. Once again, so close, yet so far, for Barcelona!
Youngster Lamine Yamal, who has turned head over heels over past few months, has showcased his outstanding talent once again to the Estadi Olimpic crowd, as his neat play helped him fire the shot past Nyland, only to see the ball skimming the side net. He has been instrumental for Xavi as he broke several records while sporting the Catalan jersey, becoming their youngest starter.
It is often said that football will display several poetic moments in your career which you would not be expecting. Sergio Ramos, one of the legends in Real Madrid shirt, who has plied his trade with “Los Blancos” over the years, and have been involved in several El Clasicos between Barcelona and Real Madrid. A stalwart in defense, Ramos had previously been playing for Sevilla where his career was provided with an impetus before joining Real Madrid. Little did he knew that on his La Liga return to Barcelona, he would be the reason for Sevilla’s loss. It was Ferran Torres, the “Shark” who has proved his mettle in several crunch situations this season, once again coming to the picture at a vital time, when he crossed the ball to Yamal on the far side, as the youngster tried a header at the Sevilla goal, only to be poked by Ramos in his own net. Sergio Ramos, once a Real Madrid Galactico, scoring an own goal for his new team against a familiar foe(Barcelona), thus gifting the Catalans a hard fought victory.
A poetic justice, indeed!
With 15 minutes left on the clock, Sevilla wanting to score an equalizer, but were rarely seen getting hold of the ball, as the defending champions strengthened their defensive backline by adding Oriol Romeu, the former Southampton man, often touted as the next Busquets. Barcelona face FC Porto next in their Champions League fixture, and would look to continue their dazzling form after mauling UCL debutants Royal Antwerp 5-0 in their last game.