October 22, 2016

Suarez gives Barcelona edge in Supercup

Luis Suarez insisted the Spanish Super Cup is not Barcelona’s yet after helping his team shoot down Sevilla 2-0 to give them a comfortable lead after Sunday’s first leg of the final.

The Uruguayan opened the scoring early in the second half, making amends for two earlier misses, before Munir El Haddadi sealed the win when he ran on to a Lionel Messi through-ball and fired home.

Having been beaten 4-0 by Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of last year’s final, Barcelona were determined to improve on that showing, setting themselves up nicely for the return at Camp Nou on 17 August.

“This is not decided,” Suarez told Spanish television after the game.

“In the second half we played very well. It’s important to win away from home against an opponent as good as Sevilla.”

He was not impressed with some of the home supporters who shouted insults at him from the stands at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

Suarez added: “They can keep talking, I’m going to do my thing, which is to play football. It’s not a problem, we are the protagonists, not them.”

Luis Enrique was thrilled with the performance, which puts his team halfway towards the first trophy of the season.

“We continue with the same ambition as always,” he said in his post-game press conference. “This team knows how to sacrifice and compete, because we want all the titles and we’ve ended up with a magnificent result.

“We played a good game, as much defensively as in attack, and in the second half we were able to connect with the forwards and open the scoring. I am very happy with everything.”

The coach sprang a surprise with his selection, picking Jeremy Mathieu at left-back and Arda Turan at left-wing in place of the absent Neymar, with all four summer signings left out. Sergi Roberto was also chosen out of position at right-back, ahead of Aleix Vidal.

However, by the 35th minute both Lucas Digne and Denis Suarez had to be brought on for their official debuts, with Mathieu and Andres Iniesta injuring their hamstring and knee respectively.

Iniesta was making his 594th appearance for Barcelona, taking over from Carles Puyol as the player with the second most appearances for the club, behind Xavi Hernandez, but it was ended prematurely after a fierce challenge by Gabriel Mercado.

The first period saw few chances created, although the best of them fell to Luis Suarez in the sixth minute. Sergio Busquets played him in and after spinning masterfully away from the defence his low strike was saved well by goalkeeper Sergio Rico.

At the other end Jorge Sampaoli’s team worked their way into the game but despite plenty of possession in dangerous areas, they couldn’t worry Claudio Bravo.

Luis Suarez spurned another good chance at the start of the second half when Rico saved his flicked effort, but it was third time lucky for the Uruguayan.

Denis Suarez lofted a neat ball into the area and Turan chested it home for the forward to finish with aplomb.

Messi should have doubled the lead moments later, but Rico made a fine stop from his dinked effort, after good work by Turan and Suarez carved the Argentine an opening.

Eventually substitute Munir put the game and probably the tie to bed sliding the ball past Rico with the outside of his left boot after Messi fed through an inviting pass.

It was evident that neither team were as fit as they would have liked, with Sevilla energy levels falling away in the second half, no doubt as a result of playing 120 minutes in a heartbreaking last gasp 3-2 defeat Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup earlier in the week.

Now Sampaoli needs to pick them up ahead of the second leg on Wednesday, where a monumental effort will be required if they are to overturn the deficit.

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