SEVILLA 2 - BARCELONA 2
The league lengthens for Barça
After coming out of the blocks firing and going two goals ahead, league leaders are pegged back by an ambitious Sevilla.
The metaphor that the league run-in was going to be a long one for Barcelona was showcased in the Sánchez Pizjuán where Luis Enrique’s side dropped two points in a fantastic up and down game in which Sevilla were able to recover from the visitor’s devastating start. The eventual 2-2 draw was a fair result that penalized the errors committed by Barça and rewarded the belief and courage of Unai Emery’s side, who pulled themselves back into a game that they had half lost and that they could easily have gone on to win.
Enrique had been irked before the game by comments made by Luis Suárez insinuating that the players make the decision once the whistle has gone. The Barça coach noted that “when we win it’s them that make the decisions, and when we lose it’s down to me.” On Saturday night it was proven that at least when a game is drawn the responsibility is shared.
After a splendid first half that appeared it was going to hand Barcelona the three most important points of the season so far, individual errors by Gerard Piqué, Claudio Bravo and above all a woeful Suárez, and by Enrique, who when he decided to shuffle his pack removed Neymar, who was a nightmare for the home defence, ended up eradicating the initial advantage of the visitors.
Barcelona’s set-up was formidable. Sevilla’s feared lightning breaks were stifled by the playing style that has covered them in glory and that has been so often economized this season. On the foundation of short passing, long periods of possession and with a tremendous field of pressure high up the pitch that allowed Barça to recover the ball when it was lost, with an omnipresent Leo Messi and an unstoppable Neymar in one-on-ones, Barcelona were bullying Sevilla.
The ball belonged to Barcelona, who were wearing a crimson strip in a magnificent advertisement for despising modern football. Messi was again in full control of his side’s destiny and certified his recent fine form with another rasping shot to the bottom corner hit with the delicacy of placing a baby in a cot. Sevilla were on the ropes and Barcelona increased their advantage courtesy of a wonderful strike from Neymar from a free-kick. Suárez won the foul and the Uruguayan was all intent in the first half but the music was just a little too fast for his feet. The hurry that resulted in the foul that brought the second goal also saw a possible 3-0 go begging after Suárez again combined with the Brazilian. It was the first of a series of errors that would have resulted in Alexis Sánchez, to suggest an example, being put on the market.
Suárez’s lack of killer instinct provided Sevilla with a lifeline and allowed them to pay a visit to Claudio Bravo, who had hardly been seen in half an hour of game time. A long-range effort from Ever Banega befuddled the Barça keeper, who opted to try and punch it out but did not display enough surface area for the ball to make decent contact and it instead slid past his gloves and into the net. The game was essentially restarted and Sevilla appeared unwilling to commit the same mistakes as previously.
The second half was a different matter. Sevilla bared their claws and Barcelona fell back on Piqué in order to stay afloat. The Spain defender had a majestic match but he looked sluggish when he failed to snuff out the threat of Kevin Gameiro, who was the exact opposite of Suárez, who fluffed three clear scoring chances.
Barcelona presented a wonderful image for the majority of the match, but fell just short and showed over 90 minutes just how long the remaining seven matches of the competition promise to be.