Lionel Messi saved the day for Barcelona, coming on as a sub to score a late equalizer against Sevilla and keep Barca’s unbeaten run going.
After Luis Muriel slapped home a rebound early in the second half to make it 2-0 Sevilla, it looked like Barcelona’s long unbeaten streak would be stopped at 36. That didn’t prove to be the case however, with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi both scoring late on to bring the Catalan side within one goal of Real Sociedad’s record. Here are three things we learned from the game
Barcelona streak survives
Despite the struggles of the home side this season, the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan has quite a reputation among La Liga’s top clubs as a potential banana peel with two historic runs coming to an end at the hands of the Andalusian side. Real Madrid’s 49-match unbeaten run in all competitions came to end with a 2-1 loss to Sevilla last season and La Liga’s current record unbeaten run, held by Real Sociedad, also came to an end in Sevilla’s back yard with the nine-man host winning 2-1 in that game also.
Vincenzo Montella’s men came agonizingly close on Saturday, but come the full time whistle, they only have themselves to blame for letting it slip. Sevilla had a number of chances at 2-0 to seal the game and end Barcelona unbeaten streak, however, they failed to capitalize on them thanks in large part to the poor decision making of Muriel.
The Colombian has demonstrated repeatedly that he isn’t a clinical striker and one must wonder if his performance tonight will prove to be the last straw. It is even more frustrating for Sevilla fans given that the club’s top scorer, Wissam Ben Yedder, sits on the bench despite leading Sevilla to their first European quarter final in over 60 years just before the international break. The Frenchman is by no means perfect, but his prowess in front of goal should at least constitute a late appearance in a game where Sevilla desperately needed a finishing touch.
Barcelona look tired
After picking up an injury over the international break, Messi was on the bench for Barcelona. However, Ernesto Valverde opted to sub the Argentine on as soon as his side went 2-0 down.
It’s quite interesting that Valverde opted to risk Messi in a game where they were only playing for an unbeaten run. It seems near impossible, even if they had lost in Seville, that Barcelona will lose the Liga title from this position, however, it seems that the Blaugrana boss sees things quite differently and judging by the clear signs of fatigue on his player’s faces at full time, he might pay for these minutes further down the line.
The Catalans have seven games this month, including a quarter final clash with Roma, a Copa Del Rey final against Sevilla and some difficult games in the league against Valencia and Celta Vigo. The unbeaten streak might have survived tonight, but Valverde (or Argentina this summer) might be ruing that he didn’t pick his battles better later on this season.
Messi is huge for Barcelona
When Messi came on with his side 2-0 down, their was a sense of anticipation in the home crowd. Barca’s number 10 has scored against Sevilla more than any other side in his career and at such a precarious scoreline, it seemed destined that he would be the deciding factor in any Barcelona comeback.
As he has done time and time again for the Blaugrana this season, Messi made the difference, powering home a fantastic equalizer to save his team’s invincible season. The superlatives have long run out to describe such a clutch player and should Barcelona indeed go unbeaten this season, it will be squarely down to Messi’s contribution this season.
Perhaps a little concerning for Valverde that his side didn’t look confident up front until Messi came on. Philippe Coutinho, Suarez and Ousmane Dembele were involved, but they lacked the lethal edge that Messi has. At a basic level, it demonstrates that no matter how much money Barcelona spend over the next decade, they will likely find another player of Messi’s ilk again