European Roundup: Free kick master Messi rescues Barcelona, while Juventus comfortably defeat Inter
Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla
Scorers: Messi 31’, Pique 47’ – Vitolo 20’
Barcelona began the game dominating possession, although the visitors looked threatening on the counter, as Gameiro nearly caught out Claudio Bravo in the initial stages. The Catalans responded by rattling the woodwork in quick succession, as a corner from Messi and a shot from Suarez hit the frame of the goal, as Barcelona asserted their superiority.
However, it was the visitors, who haven’t won away from home this season, who took a shock lead. Michael Krohn-Dehli and Benoit Tremoulinas charged down the left wing on the counter, and the French left-back sent in a peach off a cross to an unmarked Vitolo at the far post, who calmly slotted the ball across goal into the bottom corner, with Claudio Bravo having no chance.
With Barcelona trailing and Sevilla looking quite organized at the back, it was Messi who came to the host’s rescue once again, as the Argentine maestro equalized for Barcelona in the 31st minute. Messi stepped up to take a free-kick just a few yards outside the penalty area and delivered in style, as his left-footed effort curled right into the top corner with Sevilla keeper Rico having no chance.
Barcelona began to assert their dominance as the half drew to a close, but Sevilla managed to hold off the Catalans through some last ditch tackles, which meant the sides went into the break on level terms.
The Catalans came rushing out of the blocks as Barcelona took the lead in the 47th minute through Gerard Pique. As a number of Sevilla players blocked Barcelona’s path towards goal from a corner, Messi and Suarez managed to magically combine in the box, with the latter stabbing the ball into Pique’s path, who only had to slot the ball home, thus giving Barcelona the lead.
Sevilla had a great chance to equalize soon after, as an inventive backheel from Iborra sent Gameiro clean through on goal, but Claudio Bravo rushed out to close the angle and make the save, but a striker of Gameiro’s quality should have done better.
Sevilla were left ruing that chance but as the second half progressed, Sergio Rico made a number of saves from Suarez, Busquets and Messi to keep the visitors in the game. As both managers made their changes to affect the game, it did not matter, as Barcelona continued to dominate possession, although Sevilla managed to threaten on the counter with N’Zonzi.
In the final minute of injury time, Barcelona were made to withstand a couple of high-pressure corners, with Rakitic and Busquets snuffing out the danger as Barcelona finished the game quite relieved to have the three points, which takes their lead to 8 points over Atletico, while Real Madrid are a staggering 12 points behind.
Juventus 2-0 Inter Milan
Scorers: Bonucci 47’, Morata(P) 84’
Juventus defeated Inter Milan 2-0 in the Derby d'Italia on Sunday night thanks to goals from Leonardo Bonucci and Alvaro Morata. The result puts the team from Turin on top of the table, 4 points clear of Napoli, who have a game in hand.
The match itself was very stop-start, with both teams conceding a lot of free-kicks in order to break up play and ensure that the opponents lack rhythm in their play. Juventus made a very quick start to the match, and took 5 shots on goal within the first 15 minutes, with both Paulo Dybala and Hernanes going close.
Inter’s first opportunity came through Danilo D’Ambrosio, but the full-back’s effort went just a little wide. Mario Mandzukic threated to open the scoring after that, but his shot on goal was saved. Soon after, Juventus had to substitute Giorgio Chiellini due to injury and brought on Daniele Rugani, as the teams went into half-time goalless.
The second half saw more of the same, with Juventus dominating the Nerazzurri, carving goalscoring opportunity after opportunity as they took the lead right after kick-off. Leonardo Bonucci scored from a set piece situation, putting his foot in through the ball as it rifled into the net.
Post that, Inter tried to hit back but had to remove Gary Medel, who went off with an injury, with attacking midfielder, Adem Llajic replacing him. The Bianconeri had multiple opportunities to increase their lead, but Dybala and Pogba didn’t seem to have their radar on as they couldn’t score the second goal and finish off the match.
They eventually got their 2nd goal thanks to an Alvaro Morata penalty, after the Spaniard got up to take the penalty after he had been brought down by Miranda. Morata scored with what was almost his first touch in the game, after having come on as a late substitute for Paulo Dybala.
The loss leaves Inter Milan with a lot of work to do if they are to contend for the Champions League, as they sit on 48 points from 27 matches, 5 points off a Champions League place and 13 points Juventus, who lead the league.