Lionel Messi's Late Goal Salvages Barcelona's Unbeaten La Liga Run vs. Sevilla

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2018

Barcelona's Jordi Alba, left, and Sevilla's, Correa, fight for the ball during La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, in Seville, Spain on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
Miguel Morenatti/Associated Press

Barcelona completed an unlikely comeback against Sevilla on Saturday to preserve their unbeaten run in La Liga, stretching it to 37 matches with a 2-2 draw.

Franco Vazquez and Luis Muriel gave the hosts a deserved two-goal lead, but Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi scored less than a minute apart in the dying stages to earn their side a point.

Here's what happened in the contest:

Barcelona Attack Toothless Without Messi, but Forward Comes to the Rescue

With the UEFA Champions League fixture against Roma on the horizon, manager Ernesto Valverde followed the example Zinedine Zidane set with Real Madrid earlier in the day. Zidane rested Cristiano Ronaldo against Las Palmas, and Messi started on the bench for the Catalans.

While Real still cruised past Las Palmas, Barcelona struggled without their biggest star. Fans were not happy:

Messi started warming up after Muriel's goal and was introduced after 57 minutes. For the longest time, it seemed it wouldn't matter, but the comeback wouldn't have happened without him.

Both goals fell in the final minutes, with Suarez pushing the ball home from close range and Messi firing a perfect curling strike into the net shortly after. It was hardly deserved, but it didn't matter, as once again, the Argentina international came to the rescue.

    

Barcelona Fizzle after Fast Start

The Catalans started the contest well and threatened early through Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, but they soon lost their spark. Vazquez scored his goal after 36 minutes, but by that point, Angel Correa could have already opened the scoring.

When Vazquez did score―courtesy of a great assist from Correa―it was clear all was not well with the Blaugrana, per Sport:

Gerard Pique had a good chance to pull his side level before half-time, but all in all, it was a poor showing from the La Liga leaders before the break. Their poor play continued in the second half, with Muriel doubling the advantage after 50 minutes.

The two late goals will change the narrative, placing the focus on Barcelona's resolve and strength of character. But they were second-best for the vast majority of Saturday's contest and will have to do better if they want to be successful in Europe.

   

Navas, Vazquez Misses Prove Costly

Messi might not have entered the pitch if Jesus Navas and Vazquez had killed off the match shortly after Muriel's goal. The two wasted a glorious chance after a Marc-Andre terStegen mistake, with the former seeing his effort blocked by Pique and the latter somehow missing from an open position. 

Top teams will punish those mistakes, and that's exactly what happened on Saturday. 

    

Sevilla Nearly Do it Again

Sevilla's stadium, the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, is known as one of the toughest places to visit in Spain. Just ask La Liga's great undefeated sides, per Goal's Ben Hayward:

    

Defensive Questions for Blaugrana

Barcelona's defence has been hailed throughout the season, but the unit appeared rusty coming back from the international break. Navas and Muriel both missed excellent chances in the second half, and a more efficient attack would have scored a lot more than two goals.

That's a bad sign for the Catalans moving forward, with crucial contests against Roma and Valencia on the schedule for April, as well as a rematch with Sevilla in the Copa del Rey. Pique and Samuel Umtiti will likely return to form, but they better do so fast.

   

What's Next

Barcelona host AS Roma in the Champions League, while Sevilla welcome Bayern Munich.

Related

    Emery: Arsenal Don't Want to Play Against Liverpool Ever

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Emery: Arsenal Don't Want to Play Against Liverpool Ever

    via footballlondon

    Trippier ➡️ Morata for 1-0

    Perfect cross headed home by Atletico striker vs. Getafe 🎥

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Trippier ➡️ Morata for 1-0

    Perfect cross headed home by Atletico striker vs. Getafe 🎥

    beIN SPORTS USA
    via beIN SPORTS USA

    All 19-20 La Liga Kits 📸

    FC Barcelona logo
    FC Barcelona

    All 19-20 La Liga Kits 📸

    Footy Headlines
    via Footy Headlines

    Incredible Hit in Slovenia 💥🎥

    Luka Bobicanec will remember this one

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Incredible Hit in Slovenia 💥🎥

    Luka Bobicanec will remember this one

    Streamable
    via Streamable