Pedro gifts Barca UEFA Super Cup in nine-goal thriller against Sevilla
Substitute Pedro, possibly appearing in his farewell game, grabbed the winner for boyhood club Barcelona, who needed extra-time to sink Spanish rivals Sevilla.
The Catalan giants eventually triumphed 5-4 to lift the UEFA Super Cup at the Bathtubs’ expense, in a memorable match chock full of twists and turns.
Free kicks were king in the first half, as Barca got off to a surprisingly poor start. Within three minutes former Arsenal attacker and Sevilla skipper Jose Antonio Reyes had been hacked down just outside the area by Javier Mascherano.
The Argentine defender’s compatriot Ever Banega, a mercurial midfield talent, stepped up to show his best and curled a delicately placed set-piece into the far left corner, catching out a stranded Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
It was soon back to business for Barcelona, however, as a Lionel Messi in lethal form responded almost immediately, with another sublime set-piece strike. Luis Suarez was felled at the opposite end of the pitch, allowing Messi the chance to deftly chip over the wall and beat Beto.
Rafinha, filling in for Neymar instead of Pedro, who reportedly requested a Nou Camp exit, narrowly missed the chance to give the Catalan’s the lead just moments later, after former Bathtubs schemer Ivan Rakitic whipped in a probing cross. The Brazilian would soon make amends, however.
Another foul around the 15th minute mark, this time on Rakitic, gave Messi an opportunity and sight on goal, and the electric Argentine took it emphatically, lashing in yet another free kick.
Suarez, also running rampant, then saw his strike incorrectly ruled offside, giving the Bathtubs a brief reprieve. By this point, Unai Emery’s men were struggling, as Barca increasingly gained a choke-hold on the game, pressing impressively.
Sevilla simply could not keep hold of the ball, illustrated by Rakitic at one point strolling through midfield, though his stinging shot was wild and misdirected.
Finally, just before the break, the underdogs began to brighten, managing to panic Barcelona at the back, but Dani Alves was on hand to make a last ditch clearance before Vicente Iborra could latch on to a loose ball.
Sevilla cruelly paid for not taking that chance, as a long ball released Suarez, who surged through on goal, only for Beto to block. The Uruguayan retrieved the ball far too easily and audaciously nutmegged Michael Krohn-Dehli to put the chance on a platter for onrushing Rafinha, who completed a simple tap in to make it 3-1 heading in to half time.
The Catalans picked up where they left off after the re-start, as Sergio Busquets picked off possession following a sloppy Benoit Tremoulinas pass, allowing the Spaniard to collect and slide the ball to Suarez, who finished simply.
Sevilla soon rallied, however, as vibrant Vitolo pinged a cross straight to the feet of Reyes, who contributed to the excitement with a lovely side-footed finish, giving the Bathtubs real hope of revival.
Emey’s outfit consequently kept their heads up and were rewarded when full back Tremoulinas sent a sweeping ball into the box, forcing Jeremy Mathieu to haul down Vitolo, who was free. French forward Kevin Gameiro then coolly converted his subsequent spot-kick to put Sevilla within one goal of the treble winners.
With momentum swinging in their favour, substitutes Ciro Immobile and Yevhen Konoplyanka then combined incredibly to stun Barca, with the Italian attacker taking advantage of shambolic defending by Marc Bartra to lay on a pass for his new clubmate to slot home and pull Sevilla level.
In the 89th minute, Messi also threatened to pull off more magic, coming agonisingly and unbelievably close to completing a hat-trick of free kicks, but watched it go wide, with extra time soon following.
As Barcelona looked lost without composed captain Andres Iniesta, previously taken off while Barca were flying high, forward Pedro was brought on to go for the jugular, and filled his super sub role to perfection.
The apparently wantaway La Masia graduate pounced after Messi’s free kick and follow-up shot were both blocked, smashing home the winner halfway though the second half of extra time, in what could be his last outing in a Barca shirt.
Sevilla poured forward but both Coke and Adil Rami made a meal of their chances, leaving Sevilla to rue a second successive loss in this competition.
In the end, Pedro’s poignant goal proved to be a fitting end to an exhilarating, edge-of-the seat encounter in the highest-ever scoring UEFA Super Cup clash, as Barca took to the podium to claim yet more silverware.