Barcelona just managed to hold off Sevilla thanks to a rare Paco Alcacer brace to ensure that they maintained their lead at the top of the La Liga.
The Catalan giants started off brightly as expected and took control of the game early. They enjoyed a bulk of the possession in the first 45 minutes and barring a few forays forward through counterattacks, Sevilla were barely allowed to have a go at Ter Stegen’s goal.
Paco Alcacer drew first blood with a nice finish in the 23rd minute after being played through by Escudero, and both sides went into the break with the score at 1-0. Guido Pizarro would bring his side back on level terms with an easy header after Barcelona failed to defend a corner in the 59th minute.
It would be Paco Alcacer once again, finding himself in the right place at the right time to get on the end of a Ivan Rakitic cross to finish past the helpless David Soria from close range in the 65th minute, to bring his side back up on top. That would eventually prove to be the winner, and Barcelona now have a 4 point lead at the top of the table.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen: 7
Called upon on a few occasions in the first half, distributed well and wasn’t at fault for the goal his side conceded.
Nelson Semedo: 7
Did brilliantly to block Sarabia’s shot in the second half. But unfortunately, Pizarro scored from the subsequent corner. Had a good game, was unafraid to go forward and a solid display helped his side keep the pressure on Sevilla for most of the game.
Gerard Pique: 7
Unlucky to hit the crossbar in 62nd minute from distance. Was at fault for Sevilla’s equaliser, but that mattered little at the end of the game. Did superbly to prevent Jesus Navas from getting in a cross from a dangerous position, and had a good game besides that once instance.
Samuel Umtiti: 7
Gifted Muriel a chance to score with some shoddy defending, but thankfully it didn’t come back to haunt him. Got forward a lot as he tried to start his side’s attacking forays from the back. Otherwise, he had a good game and intervened well when called upon.
Jordi Alba: 7
Had a good game. Wasn’t troubled too often on his wing and contributed well going forward. A good outing for the Spaniard. Wasn’t his best in the final third and is still finding his form and stride in a season that has been plagued by injury.
Ivan Rakitic: 8
Set up Paco Alcacer’s second of the night with a fantastic cross. Was unfortunate to have a penalty appeal ruled out incorrectly in the 80th minute. Besides that, has a superb game overall, and contributed going forward and defensively as well.
Sergio Busquets: 7
Missed an easy chance early on the in game after being set up by Lionel Messi. However, he had a good game overall but couldn’t take control of the midfield while coming up against Pizarro and N’zonzi and saw his influence reduce in some parts of the game.
Andres Iniesta: 7
Went close in the first half with a shot from distance. His passing was on point, kept his side ticking and started the game off brightly. However, couldn’t last too long on his return from injury and was taken off for Paulinho to add a more defensive, energetic presence in midfield.
Lionel Messi: 7
Put in yet another stunning shift in what his 600th game in a Barcelona shirt. May not have gotten a goal or assist, but he was Barcelona’s biggest attacking threat. Looked to constantly and unselfishly try and set up Suarez and the rest of his teammates, whenever the chance came.
Took on Sevilla players and breezed past them, on one instance taking on 6 players and dribbling past them which invited deafening applause from the Camp Nou faithful. A stunning display, sheer entertainment and played a role in Paco Alcacer’s second, which eventually proved to be the winner.
Luis Suarez: 6
Missed an early chance after finding himself 1 vs 1 against the keeper. Was unlucky to not be awarded a penalty after a shot was deflected by the arm of a Sevilla defender in the penalty box. Endured yet another frustrating game, not for lack of effort though.
Kept running, kept trying to get in good positions and harassed the Sevilla defence as much as possible. Is currently in the midst of his worst ever goal-less streak as a Barcelona player, having not scored in 451 minutes of football in all competitions.
Paco Alcacer: 9
Finished beautifully after capitalising on a defensive error from Escudero to give his side the lead and then gave his side the lead again in the 64th minute, with a composed finish. Good positioning and awareness for both goals and didn’t put a foot wrong the entire night.
Subbed off in the 65th minute to a deserved standing ovation. This will undoubtedly come as a huge confidence boost, for a man who had endured a difficult first season and has still failed to justify his massive price tag. Valverde will hope that he can build upon this performance and show that Barcelona still have a lot of strength in depth.