|Lionel Messi vs Sevilla|
It was one crazy game at the Sánchez Pizjuán on Sunday night, just as promised, both FC Barcelona and Sevilla put up a fight to get all three points as they both continue their pursuit of Real Madrid at the top of the table.
As a Barça fan, I can say from what I saw that it has been a long time since Culés were so pessimistic about their team getting the desired result, a win. Their pessimism was valid and it was the more realistic path to follow than being optimistic because Luis Enrique’s men haven’t been playing at top level recently. A terrible performance to get a scrappy 1-0 win over last placed Granada before being outclassed by Manchester City 3-1 at the weekend is enough reason to be pessimistic.
But that isn’t all, the Catalans have struggled in recent weeks in both midfield and defence as they miss two key players in Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué, these are two of the top 5 most important Barça players and their absence already proven to be a disaster for the Catalan giants as they’ve never played well for the full 90 minutes since both players were out.
Adding to all these was the fear of Sergio Busquets current form, the midfielder hasn’t played his best football recently and that was a worrying situation prior to the game knowing Sevilla will surely press Barça high up the pitch, a situation where Busquets at full throttle will be needed.
There were so many reasons for Culés to be realistically pessimistic prior to the game against a Sevilla team who have been playing the best football in La Liga this season led by Jorge Sampaoli, and in the Sánchez Pizjuán, a stadium where Sevilla are yet to drop points this season, but at the end Barça triumphed at Messi’s behest.
In the first half against Sevilla, Barça played like they haven’t had tactics for the past two years, running like headless chicks and found it hard to string four consecutive passes. Sevilla had two attempts already in the first 90 seconds and finally got the lead after 15 minutes, the camera didn’t show it but I suspected that Messi smiled after this.
Sevilla kept on pressing Barça, almost got a second, third and fourth and they were close to taking the lead into halftime which would be a huge blow for Barça, but then Messi happened. Lio knew Barça couldn’t afford to lose this game, nah!! Not gonna happen! Barça would be 5 points below leaders Real Madrid at such early stage and that would be a horror sight.
I suspected that Messi wanted to party in the second half only but was unsure about the outcome, so decided to play it the safer way and make it all square at half time. He picked up the ball and started an attack before running 48 yards to meet a short pass from Neymar, he coolly kicked the ball from outside the box in an effortless manner and made the goal looked like a tap-in from 3 yards, curled the ball at the back of three players in exquisite fashion into the unlikeliest of angles towards his left despite Sergio Rico leaving the entire right side so free, it was a masterpiece from Messi, 1-1.
|Lionel Messi’s goal against Sevilla|
That goal typically changed the game, it was two minutes from time and Barça played better in that final two minutes than they did for the entire 43 before, and it was all down to that short piece of brilliance from Messi.
The second half started and Luis Enrique didn’t even make any substitutions but from the first minute Barça played far better, still salivating over that Messi goal. Messi continued terrorising the Sevilla defence, making them look clueless and reducing their menace in attack which made the Barça defenders more comfortable in their roles.
Messi also played the Xavi role on occasions, controlling the midfield for Barça and making Busquets and Denis get into the game in a more encouraging fashion. His constant threat minimised Vitolo’s and Escudero’s going forward in the second half, giving Rakitic and Sergi Roberto a huge sigh of relief and both players played 60 times better than they did in the first half. He went towards the left on occasions to support Neymar, making the Brazilian lose the ball less than he did in the first half as he’s been relieved off some heavy load. Messi also set up Luis Suarez for the winner and also presented him with a great chance to add his second, a player who had a terrible first half returned to being the best 9 again.
This was Messi making his entire teammates play better and even Barça coach Luis Enrique was seen playing Candy Crush on his tablet after almost losing his voice in the first half. Even the goalkeeper Ter Stegen looked more comfortable as Sevilla players got too tired to press Barça’s backline like they did in the first, and the Barça backline grew more confident to switch plays and risk passes like they didn’t in the first. This was Messi’s masterclass at work, Barça lost the ball possession stats in the first half but recovered it in the second, had less passes in the first half but had more after full time.. they ended up picking up an unlikely win after most of their fans had given up after a nonexistent first 40 minutes, thanks to Messi. It could’ve ended 4-1 or 5-1 if Barça were more clinical in front of goal.. it was amazing.
After the game, Sevilla players Iborra and Vitolo couldn’t help but shower praises on the little magician.. “He’s the best in history,” “He’s unstoppable..” they both said.. even Sevilla’s president said “Messi is an alien.” Piqué summed it up with a tweet saying “If the Ballon d’Or is for the actual best player, Messi should be winning every edition since 2009,” it was the plain truth. These statements were after the game, Sevilla’s coach Jorge Sampaoli said in his prematch conference that “there should be two Ballon d’Or awards, one for Messi and one for the others,” that’s just it.
I feel sorry for Game of Thrones fans as Sevilla made a mistake to invite the characters to the game. Now, they’ve witnessed a Messi masterclass and if the Season 7 of GoT is still being filmed then I’m afraid it will take a little longer to be released because I’m sure these characters will postpone filming everytime Messi is in action.
Messi’s goal was his 500th for Barça (including friendlies), it was his 51st goal of 2016, making him the player with most goals this year. The assist to Suárez was his 29th in 2016, making him the player with the most assists in 2016. He is the deserved winner of both the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA Best Player awards, at least to anyone who has a working brain..
The media still say Ronaldo is odds-on favourite for the Ballon d’Or, it shows the state of the award.. Messi won three trophies compared to Ronaldo’s two with Messi more crucial to his accolades than Ronaldo was to his.. in 2016 also, Messi has directly contributed to 21 goals more than the Portuguese star.. every logic stipulates that Messi should win both awards and only Luis Suárez is fit to stand in the podium alongside him.. this man is something else.. he’s the best now, the best ever and the best there will ever be.. take a bow King Leo!