Sevilla vs. Barcelona: 7 Talking Points from the Controversial La Liga Match
When the final whistle blew on Saturday, the scene at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium said it all.
As FC Barcelona players rejoiced in excitement after coming back from two goals down to get a win, Sevilla FC players and fans were outraged at the referee and left in a heap of anger and with a feeling of injustice.
A hard-fought, exciting game of Spanish football was once again overshadowed by a controversial call that greatly influenced the final result.
While the red card given to Gary Medel will be the defining moment, there were many things we learned from this match as it relates to the rest of the season.
The following seven points discuss one of the better and most talked about games of the season.
Please leave your own thoughts on the match after reading the piece.
Medel's Red Card Key to the Match
This will obviously be the most-discussed point, as it was essentially the turning point of the match. Most people will agree that this was a bad call by the ref, while a few Barcelona fans will deny it.
Regardless of one's opinion on the call, there is no denying that Gary Medel's send-off changed the entire match.
Before that point, Sevilla were very dangerous on the counterattack, often taking advantage of the poor positioning and understanding between Javier Mascherano and Alex Song.
One of the main reasons they were so good was because of Gary Medel. He was incredible at the back alongside the even more impressive Hedwiges Maduro.
Maduro was the man designated to cut off the central passing lane, while Medel did all of the dirty work. Medel was the most accurate passer, along with Xavi.
Sevilla left for dead
When he left, there was simply no chance Sevilla would score again.
Ivan Rakitic, their key attacking midfielder, was immediately brought off for another defensive midfielder to help cover the defense.
Not long after, Alvaro Negredo was subbed out for Antonio Luna, a sign that Sevilla would be forced to try and just keep Barcelona out of the net.
Medel and Maduro had done a phenomenal job in midfield and kept punches going both ways.
His send-off was the reason La Blaugrana were allowed to attack so much in the last 20 minutes.
Did the Ref Get It Right?
- He did not "headbutt" Cesc Fabregas. They went into each others' faces and touched, then Fabregas sold it as a big foul.
- If Medel gets a straight red for this, Lionel Messi should have gotten a red on Aug. 26 for touching foreheads with Alejandro Arribas in the Osasuna-Barcelona game. There was more contact there, and Messi even pushed his head against Arribas'. The difference is that Arribas didn't fall back and claim a foul.
- Players' touching heads like this happens a lot. If fans are going to say this deserved a card, they had better say the same thing any time this happens with their own team.
It was the turning point of the game, but was the right call made? Most fans who are not Barcelona supporters would say no, it was not.
There are so many things about the red card that will turn defenders of the call into hypocrites. Let's go over a few points here.
Point one: "Medel headbutted a player and that always deserves a red," say those in defense of the call.
Point two: timing and inconsistency
Perhaps as frustrating as the call was the fact that Sergio Busquets was not given a straight red just minutes before when he went in for a very risky, studs-up tackle that could have really hurt Cicinho.
If the Brazilian had played it similarly to the Dani Alves foul that got Pepe sent off from the famous Real Madrid-Barcelona match in 2011, Barcelona would have been down a man instead of Sevilla.
Point three: refs and Barcelona
Unfortunately for the ref, that call and the less-controversial handball from Thiago Alcantara will overshadow a fairly solid night.
He ignored a lot of dives from Alexis Sanchez, made a lot a tight calls for Lio Messi when he got abused and really did a great job, considering the number of tough fouls.
I think those screaming "conspiracy" or attacking Barcelona as cheaters are taking it way too far.
But in this match, with this incident, Cesc Fabregas jobbed the ref into giving an unfair red card that changed the game for good.
Sevilla Will Be a Force This Season
The biggest reason neutrals will feel gutted about the red card is not just the incident itself; it's the fact that Sevilla were just as good as Barcelona up to that point and had actually outplayed the Catalans for much of the match.
The defensive setup worked very well, the counterattack was successful and the speed and accurate passing from the midfield exploited Barca's poor central defensive pairing all night.
We will never know how the match would have turned out. Knowing the way Barcelona have come back to snatch points so many times this season, La Blaugrana might have gotten those two goals anyway.
But they may not have. Sevilla might have held the Catalans and taken down their second giant in a month, moving into second place in La Liga.
While the red card and the final score will understandably leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Sevilla fans, there were loads of positive signs to take away from this match.
After beating Real Madrid and outplaying Barcelona, it is fair to say that Los Rojiblancos are a favorite to finish in the Top Four this season.
The central defense seems to get better every week, the midfield is extremely versatile and the team is able to play many different styles of football.
This match will stick with the team for a long time, but if they can move on quickly and rebound from the loss, Sevilla will be a team to keep an eye on all year.
Alex Song Is Not the Answer
First of all, it must be said that Alex Song has been a great signing for Barcelona so far.
He is a great passer and is strong, tough and exactly the type of aerial and physical presence in midfield that the team has needed.
But, speaking frankly, he is not the answer in defense.
Luckily for him, Barcelona's possession football will limit the amount of chances he gets to make a mistake.
There also aren't a lot of teams in La Liga that can take advantage of his weaknesses.
Unfortunately, the kinds of teams that can abuse him will only be seen in the Champions League where one or two mistakes could be all it takes to get knocked out of the tournament.
Against Sevilla, we saw the best and worst of Song.
We saw him make some great sliding tackles and interceptions that killed off Sevilla's attack, we saw him venturing forward to aid in attack, we saw his height become a valuable tool defending set pieces.
But we also saw him get lost at the back. When Sevilla came on the counter and he had to close off lanes, Song would often get caught looking around for his defender just as a key pass opened up his marker.
Sevilla's striker was fantastic as the lone man and took advantage of Song's poor positioning all night long.
The Spaniard's highlight was his goal. On that play, he simply out-muscled Song and rode him almost 10 yards before slotting the ball home.
Song is often praised for being a physical player, but Negredo showed that being a physical midfielder and being a strong, physical centre-back are two very different things.
The Cameroonian just doesn't have the right combination of brute strength and positional awareness to take on a strong striker by himself.
Song is a superb midfielder who adds lots of value, but he is not a great centre-back. His partnership with Mascherano is a disaster waiting to happen against good teams.
Fabregas the Hero
What a match for Cesc Fabregas. Talk about coming through in the clutch.
I am not talking about him scoring two goals tonight when his club needed him. I am talking about him having such a big night after so many weeks of criticism from fans and analysts alike.
Cesc's performance in this game showed just how fickle the general opinion of a player can be.
In the first half of this match, fans continued the talk over the last few weeks about how awful their No.4 had been and were calling for him to be subbed out ASAP.
By the end of this match, many of those same people were praising him as the best player on the field and turning him into a hero.
Of course, non-Barcelona fans will dislike him even more for conning the ref into giving Gary Medel a red card, but that is not as relevant.
After scoring two goals and inspiring a dramatic comeback against a great team, Fabregas has silenced many people and ended foolish talk of his being sold—at least until his next poor performance.
With Andres Iniesta still not back to full health and two huge matches coming up in the next week, Barcelona need Cesc to use this performance to inspire him for the rest of the season.
David Villa Should Start in El Clasico
While Cesc Fabregas started getting his season back on track against Sevilla, Alexis Sanchez did not.
The Chilean gave yet another disappointing performance and once again had little impact on the result.
What's worse for the winger is that David Villa had another late, dramatic winner and showed a much greater understanding with his teammates.
Sanchez is a great young player and will surely rebound sooner or later, but right now he is not giving much to the team.
On the other hand, David Villa is looking stronger and better than he was last season before getting injured.
As Barcelona prepare for their biggest league match of the season so far, they need a big-game player to help get all three points.
David Villa has proven to be not only a big-game player, but also a thorn in Real Madrid's side that manager Tito Vilanova would love to dig in even deeper.
Despite the Controversy, Barcelona Played Like Champions
There is no doubt that the red card played a huge role in the outcome of this match, but that call should not take away from a very inspirational performance by Barcelona.
Like I said before, there is no knowing how this match would have ended, but the chances of Barcelona's staging a comeback were fairly high, even with Gary Medel on the pitch.
The momentum of this match shifted all night long, and both teams looked threatening throughout. Messi and company had already come close to leveling the score a few times before the red card.
Big win in the end
This does not make the call any less unfair, but we should also not use the card as an excuse to say Barca only won because of the ref.
As we have seen numerous times already this season, Tito Vilanova's squad have made a habit of coming back to win games that were far from their best performances.
This is not the same Barcelona team from last season that would drop points to teams almost every time they failed to dominate the final third.
This is a team that can be outplayed for large portions of a match, be less than 15 minutes from dropping points and still manage to snatch a victory out of nowhere.
The red card will be the main talking point, and rightly so, but let's not ignore or downplay a hard-fought comeback by Barcelona that really showed the spirit of champions.
Sevilla will see this match as an unfair defeat, but La Blaugrana will see it as further proof that no match is over until the final whistle blows.
What did you make of the match?
Was the red card fair, and do you think it changed the outcome of the match? Do you think it was right that Medel saw red when Busquets did not?
Did that call show that Barcelona are only as good as the refs allow them to be, or was the late winner proof that this is a team that could win multiple titles?
Please respectfully leave your comments below.