FC Barcelona top Sevilla 2–1, extend unbeaten streak to 34 games

Messi and Neymar celebrate Messi's free kick goal. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Leo Messi and Gerard Piqué score on either side of half-time for record-tying, comeback win

Almost five months after falling to Sevilla at the Sánchez Pizjuan, FC Barcelona stormed back from an early one-goal deficit to exact revenge on the last team to defeat them, securing a 2–1 victory at Camp Nou and extending their unbeaten streak to a record-tying 34 games.

The victory allows Barça to stay eight points ahead of second-place Atlético Madrid and to widen their lead over arch-rivals Real Madrid, who Atlético beat on Saturday, to 12 points.

Sevilla could not have gotten off to a better start on Sunday night, going ahead 1–0 after 20 minutes. But Lionel Messi drew Barça level with a long free kick goal and Gerard Piqué notched the game winner early in the second half to give Barça their ninth straight win in La Liga.

“Turning games around is not easy and we did really well to come back,” Piqué said after the game.

For Sevilla — who way back on 3 October were the last team to beat FC Barcelona in any competition — the loss keeps them winless on the road this season in La Liga. But despite their unsavoury record away from home, and the fact that they came to Camp Nou minus a gaggle of key players, the defeat still comes as a disappointment following a recent string of admirable play that earned them five wins in their previous seven games and sole possession of fifth place.

Although the first 45 minutes were statistically lopsided in favour of FC Barcelona, the Catalans and Andalusians were even where it mattered most — on the scoreboard.

Sevilla opened the scoring in the 20th minute as Benoît Trémoulinas picked out Vitolo at the far post, and the Spanish forward calmly one-timed past FC Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo for the game’s first goal.

But on the stroke of 30 minutes Messi made his presence known when he knotted the game at a goal apiece after nailing a 23-metre free-kick over Sevilla’s five-man wall, out of the reach of goalkeeper Sergio Rico, and into the upper right corner of the net.

The goal was Messi’s 16th of the season in La Liga and his 30th overall. It was also his 20th career goal against Sevilla.

Then, at the start of the second half, as scores of the 79,682 fans who had come out to Camp Nou on a cool, Mediterranean night were still retaking their seats, Barça jumped on top for a 2–1 lead. Messi squared to Luis Suárez in the middle of the penalty area and the Uruguayan bounced a shot that defender Gerard Piqué redirected into the goal.

The two goalkeepers briefly took centre-stage in the 50th minute, each displaying their remarkable, cat-like reflexes with phenomenal one-on-one stops at point blank range, as Bravo stoned Kevin Gameiro and, on the ensuing play at the other end, Sergio Rico did the same to Neymar.

Despite the lack of a late flourish, the final half hour played out in entertaining fashion with the so-called trident of Messi, Neymar and Suárez creating all kinds of havoc in the Sevilla end. Sergi Roberto had a wide-open blast blocked inadvertently by Suárez in front.

FC Barcelona’s 34-game unbeaten streak is tied for the longest such streak ever among Spanish teams across all competitions, a record held by Real Madrid since the 1988/89 season. The Catalans can now set their sights on the all-time La Liga record of 38 straight games without a loss, set by Real Sociedad in 1980.

After the game, Barça head coach Luis Enrique praised Sevilla’s approach. “They’ve been perhaps the team who has fought against us the most. The best team to come to Camp Nou this season,” he said, moments after the final whistle.

The two sides face off once more this season in the Copa del Rey final on 21 May in Madrid.