Incredible strikes from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi earned Barcelona a vital 3-0 win at Sevilla on Saturday night…
Sevilla lined up as expected, with Tom De Mul replacing the suspended Jesus Navas. Ex-Blaugrana player Fernando Navarro was in for a long night against Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves, while Luis Fabiano and Frederic Kanoute led the line up front.
Josep Guardiola put out arguably his strongest line-up, with Carlos Puyol played in his now customary left-back position, while Thierry Henry, Messi and Samuel Eto’o formed a fearsome attacking trident. Daniel Alves and Seydou Keita started against their former club.
The game was played at a frantic pace with few clear chances but it was Barcelona who made the most of theirs with Messi once again the outstanding player.
Before this match, Sevilla had conceded the least goals in the league, while Barcelona had scored the most, so something was going to give. Much of the build-up had been spent elaborating on the clash between Adriano and Daniel Alves, and they both looked lively early on. It was the home side who started better, pressuring Barca at every opportunity.
In the opening minutes Luis Fabiano shot over from inside the box for Sevilla but after 20 minutes it was Samuel Eto’o who opened the scoring latching onto a loose ball in the area and firing home.
Barca had taken the lead, but Sevilla continued to attack with venom, albeit without a final product. Fabiano then went close again and Frederic Kanoute felt unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after tumbling in the box following a challenge from Gerard Pique. On 30 minutes, Samuel Eto’o picked up a silly yellow card for distracting Palop as he was taking a goal kick, a booking that means he will miss the game against Valencia next week. Meanwhile, Sevilla were denied a stonewall penalty when Kanoute was brought down in the box by Pique.
The clearest chance of Sevilla came later for Kanoute who could only hit the crossbar after beating the offside trap.
The second period started with Barcelona engaging in their beloved short passing. It did not take long for Manolo Jimenez to look to his bench, bringing on the former Barca youth-team player Diego Capel for the largely ineffective Tom De Mul.
Thierry Henry was enjoying more space in the second half, but his shots from the left flank were routinely saved by Palop.
As Sevilla started to tire, Messi began to come into his own. His fantastic dribbling skills were in evidence as Aquivaldo Mosquera in particular was put to the sword. On 69 minutes, one such run ended with a fierce shot that was well saved by Palop.
With 12 minutes to go, Lionel Messi scored a spectacular goal to increase Barca’s lead. Xavi’s header found the Argentine 18 yards from goal, and he controlled with his head before rifling in a spectacular dipping volley to leave Palop helpless.
With five minutes to go, any chance Sevilla had of claiming a point disappeared when Luis Fabiano was sent off for an elbow into Busquets’ face. The Brazilian was incensed, and made his feelings certain as he had to be dragged off the pitch. The replays indicated that he had no right to be upset.
To add salt to the wounds, Lionel Messi added another in stoppage time. Aliaksandr Hleb, who had only been on for a minute, found the Argentine, who rounded Palop before slotting into an empty net to put the proverbial icing on the cake.
Speaking at the post match press conference, Guardiola analyzed the match, saying, “In the first half we were inconsistent, with a lot of mistakes, but the second half was much better. In the first half they created many problems and had a great chance through Kanoute. In the second we we more organised, we kept the ball better, and defended and attacked well.”
Pep then spoke of the importance of the result, stating, “I am happy because we have taken a step up, getting important points before a very powerful and well organised rival.”
Speaking to reporters after the match, Jimenez could not hide his admiration for Barcelona, saying “We played a good first half and it was unfair that we went into the break behind, but in the second half they were superior. In the first half they didn’t play well because we didn’t allow them to, but in the second they had the ball and in that situation they are deadly. The quality of Daniel Alves, Messi and Xavi has destroyed us and to say otherwise would be to lie.”
Sevilla’s next test comes in the form of an away trip to play Real Madrid.
It was the perfect start to a period that sees Barca face Valencia, Real Madrid and Villarreal in its next three games, and if this performance is anything to go by, Blaugrana fans have nothing to fear in the coming weeks.
Barcelona: Eto’o 20; Messi 78, 92
Sevilla: Palop – Mosquera, Squillaci (Renato 73), Escude, Navarro – De Mul (Capel 55), Maresca (Romaric 63), Fazio, Adriano – Fabiano, Kanoute
Barcelona: Valdes – Alves, Marquez, Pique, Puyol – Toure, Keita (Busquets 74), Xavi (Gudjohnsen 87) – Messi, Henry (Hleb 90), Eto’o
Yellow Cards: Eto’o 30, Marquez 62, Pique 75
Red Cards: Luis Fabiano 84
Watch the goals and highlights of this game: