The game started off very well for Tito Vilanova’s team, as they controlled the ball, passed it terrifically to one another and had good shots on goal. Pedro had a nice shot in the second minute of the game. Lionel Messi had a good look in the 14th minute as he challenged Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop.
But even with Barça dominating the ball possession, Sevilla held their ground, and it was something special to see. There was no fear in Michel’s team. Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas made life tough for Javier Mascherano and Alex Song, as once again Tito decided not to go with a true center-back in his starting XI.
In the 26th minute, Sevilla opened scoring after a break. The ball arrived at the feet of Pitor Trochowski, who put it past Victor Valdes for the 1-0 lead.
A nice shot by Negredo in the 38th minute as he tried to put a curler around Victor Valdes. Barcelona went into the halftime break down 1-0.
The second half was something special…and controversial.
Sergio Busquets made a bad pass, which led to an Alvaro Negredo break. A weak Song challenge was held off by the Sevilla forward, and Negredo put it in the back of the net to give Sevilla a 2-0 lead two minutes into the second half. Cesc Fabregas made it 2-1 in the 53rd minute, as his shot from outside the box beat Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop.
In the 72nd minute, Gary Medel was sent off as it appeared Medel bumped heads with Cesc Fabregas.
This is where the controversy began.
Let’s be honest, did I think Cesc flopped when Medel bumped him? Cesc put a little more emphasis on his reaction, that’s what I’ll say. But Medel did lower his head and bumped Fabregas, leaning with his head. Should it have been a red card? This is what a reporter asked Fabregas after the game.
Cesc responded, “If you want, I’ll do to you what Medel did and you can tell me.”
It felt like a tie was the best-case scenario for Barcelona. There was no way Barcelona was going to get a win. As the game went into the latter stages, Barça could not find a way to get the goal. No Messi magic, either. It truly felt like it was going to be Barcelona’s first loss of the season. Sevilla was playing solid and quite frankly, they deserved to be leading the game.
Sevilla played solid and held on until the 89th minute, when controversy made its presence again. An intended Sevilla pass hit Thiago on the arm. The referee—who was right by Thiago when the handball happened—did not call the foul on him and let play continue. Thiago then passed the ball to Xavi, who passed it to Messi, who found Fabregas inside the box, and Cesc put it passed Palop for the equalizer.
Was that a Thiago handball? Absolutely. No Barcelona fan can honestly say that it wasn’t a handball. The ref should have stopped play and given the possession to Sevilla.
But he didn’t call it.
The ref was a yard away from Thiago and he didn’t call it. He had to have thought it was an unintentional handball and he let play go on.
That was his decision. Stop complaining, people.
Everyone keeps saying Barcelona are cheaters. The ref was right there and he didn’t call it. Isn’t it the ref’s job to try and make the game fair? If you have a problem with the call, take it up with the ref and don’t just say Barcelona are cheaters. No one would've stopped the ref from giving Thiago a yellow card. He just didn't call it, for whatever reason.
It feels like most disgruntled, non-Barca fans are forgetting that Barcelona actually had to make a goal. Some people are acting like after the Thiago handball that was not called by the ref, Barcelona just waltzed into the box and scored. Credit has to go to Messi and Cesc for making the play.
Barcelona then had a chance for the win in stoppage time. All Barcelona fans were just happy with the tie, but they were also savoring the opportunity for the victory.
And the victory came from the foot of David Villa, as Messi set up the give-and-go with Villa and el guaje put it in the back of the net. Jordi Alba’s reaction was terrific to see, as he grabbed Tito Vilanova and both were smiling since the team battled back to grab the three points and remain perfect in La Liga.
Sevilla were both stunned and frustrated after watching their lead evaporate in just five minutes. Barcelona won 3-2.
This game was more than just an amazing comeback win. It was FC Barcelona’s first win in La Liga after being two goals behind in 15 years (the last occurrence coming 1997, when they came back to beat Real Betis). It was Barcelona’s first win in eight years when being down in the 88th minute or later. And it was the first time in 67 years Barcelona won an away Liga game against Sevilla after being down at halftime (3-2 in Dec. 1945) (via MundoDeportivo.com).
While all these numbers give great info on the win, the most important aspect of this game is not about the numbers or years that the team hasn’t done something, it’s what this win gives the team’s mindset and the message it sends the rest of La Liga.
And that message is that this FC Barcelona team is different. This team is special. As beIN Sport's Ray Hudson said a few weeks ago during a broadcast, this FC Barcelona is better than last year's team.
This team now has the confidence and the hunger to come back and win games they're down on the road.
This team is not like the Pep Guardiola teams of the previous seasons that cannot come back when they are down on the road. This Barça team was down against Osasuna a few weeks ago and came back to win. If this was last season's team or the team of two years ago, Barcelona would have lost Saturday’s game against Sevilla. And no one can say Sevilla just rolled over or choked in the game. They played terrifically and did everything right to win the game.
What made this comeback more impressive is that it wasn’t Leo Messi putting the team on his back and scoring all the goals. Yes, he set up the goals, but it was Cesc Fabregas and David Villa who did the tough part. I was happy to see Cesc get a brace and, hopefully, gain some confidence about his role with the team. David Villa is showing the world he hasn’t forgotten how to score goals.
The defense is still an issue, but for now, they are doing enough. Alex Song has impressed when he’s played CB; however, Tito Vilanova needs to give Marc Bartra playing time soon. Carles Puyol will be back for El Clásico.
Can the defense hold on all season? We'll see.
It may seem like I'm making a big deal of out one game. But the thing is, that the win against Sevilla is a big deal. Let’s not act like Sevilla are some pushover team. They beat Real Madrid just a few weeks ago and had Barcelona beat in this game. But Sevilla found out that this is not the same Barcelona team of the previous season that would just get frustrated and lose the game. This team under Tito Vilanova is scrappier and hungrier than its been in previous seasons.
This Barcelona comeback win against Sevilla is what is called a statement win.
And that statement is that La Liga is seeing a different FC Barcelona this season—one that can come back from a deficit, on the road, and win. And winning on the road in a deficit has hindered this group of players for a few seasons now.
Barcelona is not unbeatable by any means, but now they have proved they can come back and win any game they are down in. And that is something we couldn’t always say.
This is why FC Barcelona will in La Liga this season.
This team this season will not go on the road and let those close games get away. Just remember how many points this team has dropped in recent years due to collapses on the road. Ask Real Madrid if letting those close road games get away is not important. It seems like those road games always are a challenge for Real, and they are the reason Los Blancos are in the hole they are in.
This Barcelona team is more motivated because of last season’s fall from grace as well as the Tito factor. Vilanova has allowed his players to be more relaxed and loose than Guardiola did. Pep was more of a disciplinarian and wanted things done completely as he drew them up. Tito is not like that. Tito shows discipline, but it’s less intense. The most important factor is that Tito allows his players to have a bit more control in in-game situations. Hence why players like Lionel Messi has been more verbal this season in games (e.g.: the recent David Villa disagreement).
Barcelona remains perfect in La Liga and will look to decimate Real Madrid’s chances of a repeat championship in El Clásico this weekend. An 11-point lead would be a back-breaker for Real. Barca’s biggest challengers for La Liga would also shift from Real Madrid to Atletico Madrid and Málaga.
So for those who keep saying Barcelona are a bunch of cheaters or “they got lucky,” stop it. Yes, Fabregas might have put a bit more emphasis on the Medel contact, but that’s part of the game. Everyone does it—including Real Madrid players. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but every player is trying to do anything to get an advantage.
Don’t give me a speech on how it’s not right. This is football, not court.
Again, the ref should have called a handball on Thiago, but he didn’t, even though it happened right in front of him. That’s a blown call on the ref, so stop complaining and blaming Barcelona on that one.
One last thing, let’s not forget that Sevilla could have stopped Barcelona from scoring both goals, but they didn’t; that’s why they lost. It wasn’t the Medel red card or the referee. Yes, both the Medel red card and the non-call gave Barcelona an advantage, but Barça still had to find a way to get goals and they did. Sevilla played a near perfect game for 88 minutes and still lost. Barcelona beat them not by a penalty, or a free kick, or a Sevilla own-goal, or even a corner-kick header. These were two solid goals with Sevilla defending hard.
I repeat: two goals, not just one.
Yes, Sevilla deserved more, but in football, it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you take.
And FC Barcelona took the win from Sevilla and earned it via two non-controversial, hard-fought goals in the last minutes of the game.
Controversial calls or non-calls.
And comeback victories—some earned, some taken and some both.
That’s life in La Liga.
And life for FC Barcelona in La Liga this season is, so far, perfect.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report.
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