In the opening leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final clash, a brilliant individual effort from Jules Kounde and a second-half goal from Ivan Rakitic helped Sevilla in registering a surprising 2-0 win over FC Barcelona.
Playing with an intelligent approach against a giant opponent without several key players, Sevilla on Wednesday soaked up pressure in attack to put one foot in this season’s Copa del Ray final.
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman surprisingly introduced Junior Firpo as the right back, while moving Oscar Mingueza into central defence.
On the other hand, both Pedro and Lionel Messi, who has scored 37 goals against Sevilla in his career, were back in the playing 11. However, they failed to fetch any luck for the Catalans.
Sevilla missed the injured Lucas Ocampos, who was replaced by recent signing Alejandro Gomez, while Ivan Rakitic lined up against his former club.
Sevilla started slowly and Bono made a fine save when Messi was one on one with the Sevilla goalkeeper before the home side began to get into the game and defender Jules Kounde opened the scoring with a fine individual move that saw him slip the ball past Samuel Umtiti and beat Marc Andre Ter Stegen with a diagonal shot.
Ter Stegen was back in action before halftime with an excellent save to deny Sergio Escudero a second goal for Sevilla after the full back’s long-range shot.
Barcelona looked to take a step forward at the start of the second half and Bono got down to save a shot from Messi from the edge of the area, before punching away a dangerous corner from Ousmane Dembele.
At the other end Youssef En-Nesyri got mixed up with his own feet when he had space to run into and Aleix Vidal failed to control a ball from the left when he had more time than he thought.
Barcelona pressed hard but left more space at the back and Rakitic netted Sevilla’s second of the game with just over five minutes left to play when he broke the offside trap, kept his nerve and smashed the ball over Ter Stegen into the net.
Messi had a free kick in the 90th minute to try and score a vital away goal, but Bono got down well to make the save.
Barcelona needs to score three goals against a rival that has yet to concede in this season’s Cup if they are to reach the final.
Thursday sees Athletic Club Bilbao and Levante play the first leg of their semi-final.
With IANS inputs