Barcelona survived a late fight back from Sevilla in dramatic circumstances as a goal from Alexis Sanchez with virtually the last kick of the match secured a thrilling 3-2 victory at the Camp Nou. Trailing after goals from Dani Alves and Lionel Messi, the visitors looked to have secured a memorable point when Ivan Rakitic and Coke pulled them level in the final 15 minutes. But in the fourth minute of injury time, a piece of magic by Messi resulted in Sanchez poking home the game winner to keep Barcelona’s perfect start to the Liga season alive by the thinnest of margins.
It had been tough going for Barcelona throughout the encounter against a strong performance from Unai Emery’s side. Sevilla will feel further aggrieved that their efforts resulted in no points due to a controversial disallowed goal in the second half when they were 1-0 down.
After the international break, Messi was among the Barcelona players who just lacked some if their usual sparkle for much of the proceedings. The same could not be said of Neymar, despite the Brazilian having games in both North and South America in the past eight days.
The big summer arrival was heavily involved in much of Barcelona’s attacking play, especially in the first half, and showed some sublime touches. Indeed, he was giving Stephane Mbia such a torrid time that the Cameroonian was lucky not to have seen a second yellow card in his attempts to stop his opponent. The forward twice went close to opening the scoring early on, but like Cristian Tello, on more than one occasion he could not beat Beto in the Sevilla goal.
There was nothing the Portuguese stopper could do, though, to prevent Barcelona going ahead in the 36th minute. Adriano, who had come on for the injured Jordi Alba, chipped a good cross to the back post to Alves, who showed admirable bravery to put his head to the ball ahead of the boot of Victor Machin and squeeze a header past Beto.
Sevilla, though, could have been level by the break. After a missed offside call from the officials, the visitors had a great chance on the break but failed with a final pass to an unmarked man in the middle of the box to let Barcelona off the hook as Gerard Pique lay stricken on the ground in the other penalty area.
While Sevilla had benefited from a referee’s decision on that occasion, they were victims of a hard to fathom call just past the hour mark that denied them an equalizer. Cala got up highest at the near post to head Rakitic’s corner into the net only to see the goal controversially ruled out.
That decision looked like being crucial when Barcelona turned on the style to double their lead with 15 minutes remaining. Substitute Cesc Fabregas was heavily involved in a fine move that culminated with Neymar squaring the ball across the box for Messi to shoot first-time into the roof of the net.
To their immense credit, a Sevilla side that has had a major overhaul in personnel this summer, refused to accept defeat. And just five minutes later they returned their deficit to just a single goal. Vitolo was the creator as he turned inside his defender on the left side of the area before picking out the run of Rakitic, who drilled a low shot past Victor Valdes.
As the clock ticked into injury time, Sevilla stunned the home crowd with an equalizer. Barcelona’s defense, not for the first time, went missing from a Rakitic corner, this time in ridiculous circumstances, as Coke was able to volley the ball into the net in acres of space just six yards out.
Incredibly that was only the start of the late drama. With the third of three minutes of allotted injury time just expired, Messi took up the reins and went on an incredible run past a series of Sevilla players before his effort across goal was blocked by Beto but straight to Sanchez, who poked home to send the vast majority inside Camp Nou into raptures.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.