Does Barcelona's Win Paper over the Cracks?

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IFebruary 9, 2014

Lionel Messi was the difference in the game against Sevilla.
Lionel Messi was the difference in the game against Sevilla.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Barcelona were met in Sevilla by a deluge that left parts of the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan pitch looking like a swimming pool.

In the initial stages it looked far more likely Tata Martino's side wouldn't be able to keep their heads above water, with Sevilla settling into the game much the quicker.

More unnecessary tinkering by the Argentine had given the Blaugrana back four an unfamiliar look, and it was only the 10th time this season Martino had started Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta together.

The home side entered the game with the worst disciplinary record in La Liga, and such onerous conditions led to further inevitable transgressions, yet the host's high-tempo approach was in direct contrast to the laboured and tired-looking demeanour of the visitors.

When it came, Alberto Moreno’s opener was entirely predictable.

Barca’s defence had at least three separate chances to clear the danger but allowed Ivan Rakitic to scythe through the Blaugrana back line like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Although Moreno's shot was heavily deflected as it found the net, the manner of the build up was once again indicative of Barca's fragility at the back, a problem Martino seems unable to solve.

Sevilla were fired up, and despite only 26 percent possession in the opening 20 minutes, their lead was entirely deserved. 

A fabulous header from Rakitic’s free kick by Carlos Bacca deserved better than to rebound from the foot of the post, as Barca were again on the ropes and appeared to have no answers.

Tata Martino had no answers to early Sevilla pressure.
Tata Martino had no answers to early Sevilla pressure.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Indeed, it was 24 minutes until Sevilla keeper Beto had to make a save, despite Barca's dominance in possession. 

It was starting to look like another performance to give Tata Martino’s critics some ammunition in the wake of the Valencia debacle. 

That notion only increased after Gerard Pique, with a full five-yard start on Bacca, allowed himself to get beaten to the ball, and only some profligacy in front of goal by Rakitic saved Pique’s embarrassment.

His, Barca’s and Tata Martino's luck changed in the 33rd minute. Not only did Alexis Sanchez’s equaliser go in off his back but he was a yard offside as Lionel Messi whipped in the free kick. It wouldn't be the only time Messi would have a say in the game.

As we approached halftime a wonderful counter attack from Barcelona got the finish it deserved. A pinpoint cross from Pedro found Messi who needed just one touch to set himself before dispatching a half volley into the corner.

Lionel Messi was decisive in this game.
Lionel Messi was decisive in this game.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Given how poorly Barca played in the opening half hour, you couldn't help but think luck was on Tata's side. A number of his selections hadn't stepped up with Alex Song having one of his worst games in a Barca shirt.

Victor Valdes' fabulous double save from Bacca and Kevin Gameiro kept Barca's lead intact as did an unpunished Martin Montoya slip.

Another lightning-quick Barca counter saw Messi again punish the home side, taking the ball in his stride from Iniesta and placing it in off the post.

The heat was off Tata, and the sense of relief we saw from the Barca bench was palpable.

An unnecessary substitution of Cesc Fabregas for Pedro Rodriguez might have caused further problems but it proved decisive by the end of the game.

By the time of Barca's fourth, scored by Fabregas on 88 minutes, Sevilla had seen two glorious chances go begging, the best of which fell to substitute Denis Cheryshev.

The young Russian, on loan from Real Madrid, couldn't connect at the vital time and with Victor Valdes rooted to his line, Cheryshev really should have done much better than a complete miscue. 

The win might take Barca back above Real and Atletico Madrid (via goal difference and head-to-head record), but in truth the result papers over a lot of cracks.


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