Barcelona picked up their first win in four to go top of the table after their thrilling 4-2 win over Sevilla at the Nou Camp.
Philippe Coutinho netted the hosts’ opener before Lionel Messi doubled their lead after 13 minutes.
Messi was forced off with an arm injury before Luis Suarez added a third from the penalty spot.
Sevilla managed to pull two back as goals from Pablo Sarabia and Luis Muriel sandwiched a stunning volley from former Sevilla midfielder, Ivan Rakitic.
Contrary to their disappointing displays of late, Barcelona flew out of the traps and took the lead after just three minutes. Messi’s cute reverse pass found Coutinho on the left of the penalty area and the Brazilian brilliantly bent his shot into the far top corner.
The introduction of Ruben Semedo to the starting line-up gave the hosts more attacking impetus but left them vulnerable to Guilherme Arana’s direct runs down the left wing. The former Corinthians player had the freedom of the Nou Camp moments after Coutinho’s opener and struck the foot of the post with a low drive.
Both sides were looking dangerous going forward but Barcelona boast quality unmatched in the rest of La Liga and demonstrated that when Luis Suarez’s pinpoint pass found Messi on the right wing. The Argentine stepped inside and swept the ball into the bottom corner, out of reach of Tomas Vaclik in the Sevilla goal.
The home crowd were still worshipping their talisman when the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner fell awkwardly on his right arm three minutes later. Play continued but Messi lay strewn out on the floodlit turf, pain etched on his face. The Barcelona medical team bandaged his arm but the damage had already been done and, after just 20 minutes, Messi’s night was over.
Messi left the Nou Camp before anyone else for further tests on what looked like a serious injury, putting his place on the pitch in next Sunday’s El Clasico in considerate doubt. The last Clasico without either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo was way back in 2007. Ousmane Dembele stepped into Messi’s sizeable shoes and could’ve extended Barcelona’s lead but pulled his low shot wide of Vaclik’s far post.
Sevilla were struggling to contain Suarez as the Uruguayan continued to cause problems without providing a real goal threat. The former Liverpool striker was clumsily brought down by Daniel Carrico as Semedo surged down the right but the referee waved away Barcelona appeals for a foul after Semedo skewed his shot past the near post.
Carrico almost made another mark on the hosts up the other end but couldn’t guide his near-post header beneath Marc-Andre Ter Stegan’s crossbar. Ivan Rakitic should’ve put the game out of sight but his failed dink on the stroke of half time kept Sevilla in with a shout.
Suarez grazed the outside of the post from range shortly after the restart, the forward is without a goal in his last seven games in all competitions. The game could’ve swung in the visitors’ favour in the 57 minute but the refereeing team opted not to give Sevilla a penalty after Jesus Navas’s cross struck Jordi Alba’s outstretched arm. But it didn’t.
Moments later, frustration turned to desperation for Suarez as his barren spell in front of goal showed as he snatched at a golden opportunity; his final effort posing no threat to Vaclik’s goal. Andre Silva’s soaring header and Franco Vazquez’s follow-up did pose serious threat to Ter Stegan’s goal but the German was equal to them both as a stunning double save kept his clean sheet intact.
Ripples of applause for the goalkeeper were still reverberating around the Nou Camp when Vaclik brought down Suarez in the penalty area. In the absence of Messi, the Uruguayan had the chance to end his goalless streak from the spot and ruthlessly found the net, sparking relief in his celebrations.Embed from Getty Images
Wissam Ben Yedder had the chance to haul Sevilla back into unlikely contention but pulled his low shot wide of the far post. Superb combination play between Suarez and Dembele almost yielded a fourth for Barça but Vaclik was equal to the former’s low strike from the edge of the box.
Clement Lenglet made the switch from Seville to Barcelona in the summer but found the back of the Barcelona net as his deflection on Pablo Sarabia’s long-range shot sent the ball looping past a rooted Ter Stegan. The home keeper then continued his scintillating display between the sticks with yet another double save to deny Sevilla a second.Embed from Getty Images
Rakitic’s drilled volley against his former club found the bottom corner before Luis Muriel, on as a substitute, curled another consolation past Ter Stegan to take the final score to 4-2. Barcelona overtake Sevilla and go above Alavés at the top of the table.