Barcelona vs. Sevilla: Winners and Losers from European Super Cup Final
Barcelona defeated Sevilla 5-4 after extra time in a memorable match Tuesday night in Tbilisi, Georgia, to win the UEFA Super Cup for the fifth time.
Lionel Messi scored a pair of outstanding free-kicks as Barca raced to a 4-1 lead by the 52nd minute, but Sevilla scored the next three goals to force extra time. Pedro then netted the winner in the 115th minute, potentially ending his career with the club on a high note.
Rafinha and Luis Suarez also scored goals for Barcelona, while Ever Banega, Jose Antonio Reyes, Kevin Gameiro and Yevhen Konoplyanka netted for Sevilla.
Winner: Lionel Messi
Finding the appropriate words to praise Lionel Messi is often difficult. The miniature Argentine maestro works his magic so brilliantly—and so often—that written tributes can sometimes fall short.
Tuesday was another one of those nights. Messi scored not one but two superb free-kicks, a first in his glittering career. Choosing the better strike between the two is almost impossible.
The first, from just outside the box in the seventh minute, required just the right amount of force. Messi had to be sure not to hit the ball too hard, and he did just that, lifting it up and over the wall and depositing it into the top corner. It was an equalizer as well, with Sevilla leading 1-0 at the time.
The second, a 15th-minute blast from well outside the box, felt quite different. This time, Messi had to strike the ball with enough force to beat Beto from distance but also with enough finesse to avoid hitting the wall.
Which one was better? Who cares? If Tuesday's match was any indication, Messi has another prolific season of scoring in store.
The two goals weren't Messi's only contributions to the game. Late in extra time, another free-kick by the little wizard led to the winner.
It happened in the 115th minute, with Messi's initial free-kick slamming off the hand of a Sevilla defender. While his teammates appealed for a penalty, Messi tracked down the rebound and powered a low shot on target. Beto made the save but could only push the ball into the path of Pedro, who finished high into the net from close range.
With that, Pedro might have ended his Barcelona career with a bang. Widespread media reports have linked the 28-year-old with a transfer this summer, and a Barcelona official confirmed to TV3 (h/t Manchester Evening News) on Tuesday that Pedro has asked for a transfer.
"I don't want to leave Barcelona, but the situation is complicated," the player said after the match, according to football writer Rik Sharma. "It's not about money, it's about playing more."
One can understand why Pedro would go. Few doubt the player's talent, but fewer still expect to see him start regularly for Barcelona, who boast a world-class front three of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Neymar missed Tuesday's game through illness, but Pedro still didn't start. That probably rankled him, but he'll be pleased with the way he finished the game—and possibly his Barca career.
Loser: Jeremy Mathieu
In such an entertaining game, few players should be considered losers. That fact is reflected in the format of this slideshow.
A few of Sevilla's defenders will be unhappy with their performances on the night, but after the team mounted such an inspired comeback, it seems harsh to single out any players from the Andalusian side.
On the other hand, Barcelona blew a three-goal lead, and one player deserves negative individual attention: Jeremy Mathieu.
With Barca leading 4-1 early in the second half, Mathieu defended poorly, and Sevilla scored their second goal. Benoit Tremoulinas crossed from the left, picking out an unmarked Jose Antonio Reyes at the opposite post. Reyes volleyed in after Mathieu, who should have covered the danger as the left-back, drifted too far into the middle.
That sparked the faint hopes of a comeback, and Mathieu's next contribution only fanned the flames. In the 71st minute, Mathieu pulled back Vitolo as the Sevilla man tried to attack a ball lofted into the box. The referee awarded a penalty, which Kevin Gameiro converted one minute later.
Mathieu recovered to make a good tackle late in extra time, but his two lapses cost Barcelona during the second half.
The loss undoubtedly gutted Sevilla, especially after they erased a three-goal deficit in the second half. The players exerted an astounding amount of energy, as they had exhausted their bodies by the end of extra time.
But despite losing, Sevilla were winners. Unai Emery's side refused to stop fighting at 4-1, and they even created a pair of clear chances after Pedro scored the eventual winner for Barcelona in the 115th minute.
The Andalusians' attacking style and dogged determination to win will make them a favorite team for many neutrals this season. After winning the UEFA Europa League last season, Sevilla will now have a chance to prove their worth in the Champions League this term.
After losing Carlos Bacca and Aleix Vidal (the latter to Barcelona) in the transfer market over the summer, Sevilla have reloaded once again and look ready to make a mark in Europe's top continental competition.
Winners: Ciro Immobile and Yevhen Konoplyanka
Two of Sevilla's summer signings, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Ciro Immobile, made an instant impact for their club after entering Tuesday's match as second-half substitutes.
In the 81st minute, Immobile chased the ball to the line on the right flank, burned Barcelona's Marc Bartra and powered the ball across the face of goal to the back post. That's where Konoplyanka was waiting, and the Ukrainian finished expertly to complete Sevilla's stunning comeback at 4-4.
Both players came to the club in economical deals, which is typical of the way Sevilla conduct their business. Immobile joined on loan after failing to impress with Borussia Dortmund last season in Germany. Konoplyanka joined for free from Dnipro, the team Sevilla defeated in last season's Europa League final.
Combining for the equalizer does not necessarily mean Immobile and Konoplyanka will succeed with Sevilla this season. But both players will be pleased to have started on a positive note.
Tuesday's match featured nine goals—three directly from free-kicks—as well as an improbable comeback and some truly exciting attacking football.
The season is long, but we might have already seen the most entertaining match of the campaign. There will be higher stakes as the season progresses, but minute for minute, Tuesday's encounter served up some of the most thrilling action we'll witness between now and next spring.
That makes Barcelona and Sevilla winners, of course, but it was also a victory for neutrals, who were able to enjoy an early-season treat. And as Xoel Cardenas of Fox Deportes pointed out, it was an excellent advert for La Liga:
"This is why #LaLiga is the best league in the world. Unpredictable, great matches and world-class players. Teams have heart."
We could be set for a memorable season in both Spain and the Champions League.