A goal and an assist from Lionel Messi kept Barcelona on Real Madrid’s coat-tails at the top of LaLiga as they came from behind to win a cracking encounter with Sevilla 2-1.
Some of the stars of television show Game of Thrones were in attendance and Barca successfully stormed the Estadio Sanchez-Pizjuan fortress, where Sevilla had won five from five, in a game packed with cut and thrust and goalmouth action.
Luis Enrique’s men head into the international break just two points behind Real thanks to Messi, whose pinpoint finish cancelled out Vitolo’s opener. The Argentinian then provided a clever pass to tee up Luis Suarez for the winner.
Both teams looked well set up to counter-attack and it was no surprise that Sevilla’s opener came from a Barcelona attack breaking down after a quarter of an hour.
The ball was cleared to Samir Nasri close to halfway and his through-ball was seized on by Vitolo, who got away too easily from Barca right-back Sergi Roberto before poking a low shot past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
The Catalan side were struggling to keep track of Sevilla’s movement in attack and also their superior physicality, with Luciano Vietto barging Javier Mascherano off the ball and flashing an angled shot wide of Ter Stegen’s far post in the 33rd minute.
Vitolo casually side-footed another presentable opportunity wide, and he was given a finishing lesson by Messi with two minutes of the half remaining.
Denis Suarez sparked the first real Barca break and fed Neymar on the left, who waited until the perfect moment to lay the ball off to Messi on the edge of the box. The Argentinian’s wand of a left foot did the rest, picking out the bottom right-hand corner of Sergio Rico’s goal.
There was a question over whether Ivan Rakitic, who jumped out of the way of Messi’s shot, should have been flagged for offside, but the goal stood.
The second half began in breathless fashion as Nasri’s shot was blocked by Ter Stegen after Vietto had cleverly held the ball up and back-heeled it into the path of the Frenchman’s overlapping run.
Within seconds Barca were on the attack at the other end and Rico blocked a Rakitic shot with his legs.
Denis Suarez was the instigator of another swift break-out in the 52nd minute which ended with Adil Rami getting a crucial block on a Messi shot.
Barcelona’s attacking players were having far more joy in the second period and Rico had to tip over another Messi effort soon afterwards after Luis Suarez found him with a volleyed back-heel pass.
Messi then turned provider after an hour’s play to put Barcelona ahead.
He bore down on goal before reversing the focus of the attack with a pass to his right to the unmarked Luis Suarez, who stroked a calm finish low past Rico.
Sevilla seemed to have lost their attacking fluency of the first half with Barcelona working hard all over the pitch to stifle the hosts.
Barca nearly added a third when Neymar’s perfectly-weighted through-ball found Luis Suarez, who got around Rico but was not able to apply a finish or tee anyone else up for a shot on the open goal.
Steven Nzonzi headed wide in the 74th minute after Ter Stegen flapped at a corner, and Rico was far more impressive at the other end to block a Suarez shot from point-blank range.
Messi was furious to be booked after not leaving the field to put a new boot on after one was damaged in a tussle with Nzonzi, with Neymar wasting Barca’s final opportunity late on.