Lionel Messi had Barcelona hearts in mouths at the Camp Nou when he went down writhing in agony after falling badly on his right arm – he was substituted but had been generous enough to win the game for his team before he left.
The club’s leading scoring only had 12 touches before his injury but he converted the second goal of the 4-2 win from Luis Suarez long pass having made the first with the assist that sent Philippe Coutinho through to score.
Then came the innocuous clash with Franco Vazquez and a strange five minutes as Messi seemed to be far more concerned about his injury than the Barcelona bench.
Ousmane Dembele, who eventually replaced him, took an age to warm up. But with Messi in some discomfort there was soon heavy bandaging being wrapped around his elbow. And with his name echoing around the Camp Nou he disappeared down the tunnel holding his arm.
He was taken to the clinic inside Barcelona Joan Gamper’s training facility with the club hopeful that the injury was nothing more than a ‘hyper-extension’ around his right elbow. A dislocated elbow or damaged ligaments would keep him out for much longer and with Barcelona due to face Real Madrid next Sunday.
The start for Sevilla had been terrible. They had their pre-match huddle, and two minutes later they were restarting the game after Coutinho’s goal.
Nelson Semedo started the move going past Vazquez. He played infield to Luis Suarez who teed up Messi, who threaded the ball through to Coutinho, who scored. It was a brilliant sweeping move and further evidence of Coutinho’s ability to occasionally do for Barcelona what Neymar used to do.
Sevilla responded well and Guilherme Arana hit the post but Barcelona were soon threatening to score a second with Messi’s dinked pass sending Jordi Alba flying down the left. He returned the pass to Messi who hit the side netting. The next Messi chance ended up the right side of the side netting.
Suarez has been struggling for goals this season but his ability to find Messi with perfectly weighted pass remains second to none. He played Messi in and from just inside the area and Messi whipped a left footed shot past Tomas Vaclik The change after Messi’s injury was all too evident. There was literally a leadership vacuum because no one passed on the armband that Messi had been wearing.
Dembele then dribbled past one Sevilla defender but instead of finishing past Vaclik or finding Suarez at the back post as Messi would have done he tried to take on another and lost the ball.
Suarez was left fuming and was upset again moments later when he played Dembele clear with another crossfield pass. He made the sprint into the area to receive the cross but Demebele went for goal and failed to test Vaclik.
Sevilla had been slow to realise they were still in the game. When they did Marc Andre ter Stegen was more than a match for them. He clawed one Andre Silva out from under his crossbar and then threw himself in front of Vazquez to block his effort from the rebound.
From so nearly 2-1, Sevilla went almost immediately to 3-0. Suarez ran clear and was brought down by Vaclik. It was emphatically a penalty, and he emphatically scored with his first goal in 570 minutes, his fourth of the season.
Sevilla made a late surge after Pablo Sarabia’s shot was headed past Ter Stegen by Clement Lenglet to make it 3-1. Ter Stegen then made another fine double save from Luis Muriel and Sarabia. Muriel finally got the better of the goalkeeper but only after Ivan Rakitic had rifled in the fourth with three minutes left.
Barcelona moved back to the top of the table with the win. It had been too little too late from Sevilla. More Barcelona nerves will be shredded waiting for confirmation that Messi’s injury will not keep him out for too long.