Jules Kounde and Ivan Rakitic found the net as Sevilla put one foot in the Copa del Rey final with a 2-0 home win over Barcelona in the semi final first leg.
Recent injuries to Martin Braithwaite, Sergino Dest and Miralem Pjanic forced Ronald Koeman’s hand, with left back Junior Firpo asked to fill in at right back due to a dearth of viable options in that position.
Barcelona struggled to get going and fell behind after 25 minutes when Kounde made the most of some indecision in the opposition defence to dribble clean through on goal and finish into the bottom far corner.
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Sevilla continued to push forward in the second period and got their reward when Rakitic scored a second, firing home an excellent finish after finding himself in behind Samuel Umtiti. The Croatian refused to celebrate against his former club.
The result ends Barcelona’s winning run of six games in all competitions, with Koeman and his players tasked with overturning a two-goal deficit in the second leg on March 3 if they are to reach the Copa del Rey final.

TALKING POINT - Sevilla are building something special under Julen Lopetegui

There was a lot of pre-season talk about a potential La Liga title challenge from Sevilla after an impressive 2019/20 campaign. A disappointing start to the season saw such talk dissipate, but there have been signs recently that Julen Lopetegui’s men are building again. A strong argument can be made that neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid are among Spain’s best two teams at this moment in time. Indeed, this was a performance that proved Sevilla are only getting better and better.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Jules Kounde (Sevilla)

There were a number of standout performers for Sevilla with Bono, Diego Carlos and Rakitic among those to shine for the home team, but nobody reached the heights that Kounde did. It was the French defender’s individual goal that sent the Andalusians on their way and he impressed throughout, not just in terms of the way he caused damage in the opposition half, but in the way he kept Barcelona at arm’s length. Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi struggled to get anything out of Kounde.

PLAYER RATINGS

Sevilla - Bono 9, Vidal 7, Kounde 9, Carlos 8, Escudero 7, Fernando 6, Jordan 7, Rakitic 8, Suso 5, Gomez 7, En-Nesyri 6. Subs - Rekic 6, Torres 5, Gudelj 4, Munir 4, de Jong 3.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 7, Firpo 4, Mingueza 5, Umtiti 4, Alba 6, Busquets 5, Pedri 5, De Jong 6, Dembele 6, Griezmann 5, Messi 6. Subs - Puig 3, Trincao 3.

KEY MOMENTS

12’ Bono denies Messi! That could, and perhaps should, have been the opening goal! Griezmann played the pass through, Messi controlled it, the flag stayed down, but Bono made the stop!
25’ GOAL! Sevilla 1-0 Barcelona: 25 minutes in and Sevilla have taken the lead! Kounde nipped in ahead of Umtiti to poke the ball past the Barcelona centre back and into the space. He then made no mistake with a low finish past ter Stegen and into the far corner of the net!
85’ GOAL! Sevilla 2-0 Barcelona: It's a second goal for Sevilla and that could be a big moment in this Copa del Rey semi final tie! Rakitic is played in behind Umtiti and finds the back of the net with an excellent finish! The Croatian midfielder has scored against his former club!

KEY STATS

This was the first time since February 2008 that Barcelona have faced Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan without a former Sevilla player featuring for them.
Bono has kept eight successive clean sheets for Sevilla in this season’s Copa del Rey, saving all of the 18 shots on target he has faced.
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