Matchday 8 of La Liga saw Barcelona lock horns with Sevilla at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys. The game was one of the weekend’s spiciest fixtures on paper and is safe to say, lived up to its billing.
Sevilla had not won their away game against Barcelona in their last 20 attempts, with three draws and 17 losses in the process. Needless to say, they were looking to put an end to the absurd record on the night.
Xavi Hernandez opted to deploy a bamboozling lineup against the Andalusians with four forwards starting. Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Joao Felix, and Lamine Yamal all started on the night with only Ilkay Gundogan and Gavi in midfield.
The lineup was rounded off by Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal and a back four of Joao Cancelo, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen, and Alejandro Balde.
Barcelona began the game on the right foot, confidently surging forward in attack and maintaining the possession at Montjuic. The opening ten minutes did not see many chances created but appeared to set the tone for a Barcelona-dominant game.
The first big chance of the night fell to Felix in the 12th minute when the 23-year-old found himself in enough space to pull the trigger in the box. He attempted to find the corner but was denied by Ørjan Nyland. Five minutes later, the youngster failed to hit the target.
The biggest opportunity of the half, incidentally, fell at Felix’s feet once more. A stellar run and pass from Cancelo found the attacking phenom in space to shoot.
His confident strike, unfortunately, hit the woodwork, ricocheted off the post on the goal line, and spilled out on the wrong side of the line.
The chances for the Catalans continued to flow, especially on the break as Sevilla pushed high in numbers. Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Yamal all led their counterattacks, but none came to fruition.
There was a twist in the proceedings 35 minutes into the game. Raphinha received a ball over the top from Lewandowski and acrobatically attempted to shoot. In the process, he pulled his hamstring and could no longer continue.
Fermin Lopez came on for the injured Brazilian, reverting Barcelona to a regular 4-3-3 setup. A minute later, the youngster almost scored with some smart play.
The half-time whistle was soon sounded, indicating that neither side had the initiative at the midway mark. Barcelona did deserve the lead for their performance, but the stalemate was the price to pay for missing their chances.
Action resumed after the break with Barcelona continuing to put the pressure on Sevilla. Felix once again saw a half-chance but could not put it away.
It became increasingly clear that Barcelona were not far away from scoring as the hour mark approached. Lewandowski’s shot was smartly blocked by Sevilla’s defence while Kounde’s header did not miss by much.
At one point, it was staggering how the Catalans had not yet scored for the chances they had created. However, Sevilla kept digging deeper for resources to salvage the situation.
Ferran Torres came on for Felix in the 70th minute.
The Blaugranas took the lead in the 75th minute, ironically by a Sergio Ramos own goal. The chance, however, was completely created by a phenomenal cross that was headed centrally by Yamal. The ball fell at the defender’s feet and was instantly at the back of the net.
Yamal was replaced by Oriol Romeu in the 80th minute.
Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side came dangerously close to equalising in the 85th minute with Jesus Navas practically open on goal. Only Kounde’s perfect tackle denied Sevilla.
With this win, Barcelona take over the provisional number-one spot once again in La Liga. Girona and Real Madrid are set to lock horns tomorrow night at Estadi Montilivi, and it will be interesting to see how the result in downtown Catalunya plays out in the standings.