Thursday 19 July 2018

'Wantaway' Pedro finds a little extra after Messi magic

Barcelona 5 Seville 4 UEFA Super Cup

Lionel Messi is congratulated by Luis Suarez after scoring his second goal
Lionel Messi is congratulated by Luis Suarez after scoring his second goal
Rafinha scores the third goal under pressure from Beto and Coke of Sevilla
Sevilla's Mariano marshals Pedro of Barcelona
Luis Suarez scores Barcelona's fourth goal
Pedro kisses the UEFA Cup trophy as Barcelona celebrate victory

Jamie Holland

Substitute Pedro scored the winner on what may be his final Barcelona appearance as the Catalans emerged with a 5-4 extra-time victory from a thrilling UEFA Super Cup clash with Primera Division rivals Sevilla.

Europa League champions Sevilla sprung an early surprise in Tbilisi as Ever Banega's free-kick gave them a third-minute lead, but Barca swiftly turned things around, with Lionel Messi netting two delightful free-kicks of his own in the seventh and 16th minutes.

The treble-winners went 3-1 up a minute before the interval through a Rafinha tap-in and the game appeared over when Luis Suarez added a fourth seven minutes after the break.

Five minutes later, though, Sevilla had a goal back through Jose Antonio Reyes, and Kevin Gameiro's 72nd-minute penalty then reduced the deficit further, before substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka levelled with nine minutes of normal time remaining.

Reported Manchester United target Pedro came off the bench in extra-time and struck the decisive goal in the 115th minute from close range.

It could be a fairytale ending to his Barca career for the Spain international, with the club's technical secretary Robert Fernandez having been quoted in the build-up to the game as saying: "Pedro has told me he wants to go."

As for the club itself, this triumph means Barcelona have equalled AC Milan's record of five Super Cup wins as Luis Enrique's men bagged a fourth trophy in their quest for a 2015 sextet.

Sevilla went into the contest with their boss Unai Emery having not beaten Barcelona in 19 matches as a coach - a run it looked might be set to end early on as Banega bent a free-kick past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

But Messi promptly repeated the trick from a similar range, before curling home another free-kick nine minutes later, this time from further out, to make it 2-1.

Barca dominated the rest of the first half, with Suarez having an effort ruled out for offside and then providing the clever tee-up - after having an initial shot saved - from which Rafinha converted.

Suarez duly made it onto the scoresheet shortly after the restart when sloppy play from Sevilla allowed Sergio Busquets to feed the Uruguayan, who slotted past Beto.

Emery's men then mounted an unlikely looking fightback as Reyes side-footed in, Vitolo won a penalty in a tussle with Jeremy Mathieu that was converted by Gameiro, and Konoplyanka competed the comeback when he swept in Ciro Immobile's delivery.

As the contest went into extra-time, neither side mustered much in their search for another goal until Pedro, introduced for Javier Mascherano in the 93rd minute, slammed the ball home on the follow-up after a Messi shot was spilled by Beto.

Coke and Adil Rami missed decent chances to equalise in the dying minutes, but Sevilla could not force a penalty shoot-out.

Irish Independent

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