The first leg of the Spanish Super Cup is now concluded. The final score was a bit shocking, especially when you consider that both Luis Enrique and Jorge Sampaoli were unable to field their ideal starting eleven.
From the first blow of the whistle, Barcelona employed their classic “possession game” tactic with short and long passes intertwined throughout the first half. The visitors bothered Sevilla with constant dribbles to the box, driven passes, and floated long balls from the midfield.
Sevilla’s coach admitted that combating a team like Barcelona requires that you take the ball from them. So, Sampaoli had his side high press in their 4-1-4-1 formation. It nearly paid off when a deflected ball by a Sevilla man was almost converted to an own goal.
Eight minutes into the game, Iniesta was subbed off for a knee injury, while Jeremy Mathieu was taken off at the 24th minute. Their substitutes, Digne and Denis Suarez respectively, brought fresh fire to the sluggish first half.
A cross from the right saw Turan attempt a mistimed bicycle kick. Then, Denis Suarez came alive and crossed in a ball to Luis Suarez, who fought off his marker to head the ball to the thankfully aware Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico.
At the 54 minute mark, Luis Suarez slotted home a magically chested ball from Turan. Messi himself almost put himself on the board after dribbling into the righthand side of the box and firing a ball that had Rico scrambling to block.
After being subbed on, Munir proved that he is the fourth striker Barcelona are looking for, by running onto a cutting through ball by Messi and poking it past a mind boggled Rico.
Sevilla was not without teeth though. A touch pass from the Sevilla wing to a player in the box almost resulted with the referee contemplating pointing to the spot for a penalty, but he decided against it and indicated they should play on. After further review, maybe the penalty should have been given, but the referee had a clear view of the challenge and had the final say.
Overall, the match was full of missed chances, moments of magical brilliance, and questionable refereeing. Barcelona will host Sevilla for the second and final leg of the Super Cup on Wednesday to determine the champion. On the Sevilla side we may see the return of Carrico, Kolo, Nico Pareja, and David Soria depending on how fit (or rather, unfit) they are. As for Barcelona, Neymar and Rafinha may not return in time while Mathieu has an injured right hamstring to complement Iniesta’s hurt internal lateral ligament. With so many regulars injured and missing in action, the starting lineup for both sides will have to be fine tuned for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.