Football news - Sevilla take two-goal advantage after first leg against holders Barcelona
Copa del Rey Quarter-final first leg, Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan - Sevilla 2 (Sarabia 58', Ben Yedder 76') Barcelona 0
Sevilla stunned Copa del Rey holders Barcelona by establishing a 2-0 lead to take into next week’s Copa del Rey quarter final second leg at Camp Nou.
Ernesto Valverde made a number of bold selection decisions, with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez rested and Kevin-Prince Boateng handed a debut just a day after signing for the Catalan club. Ultimately, it was a plan that backfired.
Sevilla took the lead in the second half, making the most of some dismal Barcelona defending when Quincy Promes’ cross bounced all the way through to Pablo Sarabia, who made no mistake in finding the back of the net with a first-time shot.
Sevilla's Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) quarter-final first leg football match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on January 2Getty Images
This prompted Valverde to throw on Philippe Coutinho and Suarez, but there was to be no improvement. In fact, it was Coutinho whose concession of the ball led to Sevilla’s second goal, scored through Wissam Ben Yedder after yet more slack Barca defending.
Next week’s return leg at Camp Nou will be a different proposition for Sevilla, particularly considering the likelihood of Messi returning to the Barcelona team, but Pablo Machin’s men have at least given themselves a real chance of making the semi finals.
TALKING POINT - Did Ernesto Valverde’s decision to rest Lionel Messi backfire?
This match encapsulated the conundrum Valverde faces as Barcelona manager. Last season, he faced criticism for not rotating his squad enough. Indeed, the Catalans looked weary by the time they got to the final third of the season. But take Messi out of the side and Barcelona lose their identity. That was the case this evening. Barca can’t cope without their spiritual leader… so how does Valverde tackle this problem?
Barcelona's Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde gestures during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) quarter-final first leg football match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on January 23, 2019.Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Ever Banega (Sevilla)
Long renowned for being a big game player, this was another big game performance from Ever Banega. Ben Yedder, Promes and Sarabia all impressed for Sevilla, but Banega was their driving force, as demonstrated for the second goal, when the Argentinean drove forward from deep and then set up his teammate for the finish at the back post. It’s not often Barcelona are bettered by any one player in midfield.
22’ Going to a VAR review! The Sevilla players believe that they should have had a penalty kick for what they see as a handball from Vidal. The officials are going to have a look at this.
24’ PENALTY KICK TO SEVILLA! Wow! The referee has given a spot kick for a handball by Vidal!
25’ Confusion! It's not a penalty! I'm not sure what just happened. The referee whistled and then pointed to the spot, but then pointed to the corner flag and had a word with Banega. What?
60’ GOAL! Sevilla 1-0 Barcelona: The Barcelona defence is all over the place and Sevilla take advantage by scoring the opener! Promes got the ball into the box from wide and it bounced through to Sarabia, who gets over the strike and finds the back of the net!
72’ Navas injury! Sevilla might be forced into a change here. Navas is down on the ground holding his hamstring. Machin is getting the sub ready down on the touchline. About to be made.
Sevilla's French forward Wissam Ben Yedder shows a t-shirt reading 'To my brother, be strong, E. Sala' supporting Cardiff City FC's Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala, as he celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King'sGetty Images
76’ GOAL! Sevilla 2-0 Barcelona: It's a second goal for Sevilla! They have doubled their advantage in this Copa del Rey quarter final! Banega's cross/shot flashed across the Barcelona goal and Ben Yedder was on hand to finish on the slide at the back post!
Before tonight, Barcelona had only lost one of their last nine Copa del Rey matches against Sevilla.
Barcelona have lost 25% of their games without Lionel Messi this season in all competitions, compared to just 8.3% with him in the team.