Barcelona took a huge leap towards another Supercopa as second-half Luis Suarez and Munir El Haddadi goals defeated Sevilla 2-0 in Sunday’s first leg.
Jeremy Mathieu and Arda Turan were Barca’s only squad players in their first competitive match of 2016-17 as Sevilla made four changes from the side that lost 3-2 to Real Madrid in the European Super Cup earlier in the week, among them new new boys Gabriel Mercado and Matias Kranevitter.
Sevilla began the brightest, showing the same fearlessness they exhibited against Madrid, and they twice came close through Vitolo, who got to the byline on both occasions but saw first effort go straight at Bravo, while his second was a low cross that had to be cleared off the line by a Barca jersey.
The Andalusians were further ahead than their opponents in terms of preparation for the new season, and it showed as they even matched La Blaugrana for possession before half-time. Suarez looked to change that when he pickpocketed a rival near the hosts’ box, but his layoff to Messi and then Sergio Busquets resulted in the midfielder blazing his shot over.
Barca’s rustiness was evident, and their night took a turn for the worst when Mathieu pulled up with a hamstring injury, while no chances were taken over Andres Iniesta. However, their replacements Denis Suarez and Lucas Digne would show plenty of promise on their official debuts.
Moreover, the Catalans had the game’s best chance, despite Sevilla perceived to be the better team, as Suarez was played in behind but was denied by Rico from the subsequent one-on-one, the No 9’s strike with the outside of his boot well read by the goalkeeper.
It was a sign of things to come in the second half as Suarez glanced Digne’s pinpoint delivery on target, although Rico popped it out of the air. Still, he was to break the deadlock – beautiful linkup between Arda and Denis down the left followed by the Turk chesting the ball down for the Uruguayan to fire home, low and hard.
Messi then came a whisker away from making it 2-0 to Barca as his delightful one-two with Suarez saw him venture into the Sevilla penalty area unopposed, only for his lobbed finish to be parried away.
Sampaoli’s men continued to have plenty of possession, but their movement of the ball became very sluggish, while their lack of a goal threat made them impotent. Their best hope of an equaliser was off the shin of Sergi Roberto, who was forced pray to the skies as a ricochet flew inches wide of Bravo's far post.
Consequently, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was Suarez’s who scored Barca’s second as substitute Munir pulled across to latch onto a through ball, before poking it assuredly past Rico.
Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona
Suarez 54, Munir 81
Sevilla: Rico; Mariano, Mercado, Rami, Escudero (Sarabia 55); Kranevitter (Ganso 69), N'Zonzi; Vitolo, Vazquez, Kiyotake; Vietto (Ben Yedder 61)
Barcelona: Bravo; Sergi, Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu (Digne 27); Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta (Denis 36); Messi, Suarez, Arda (Munir 77)
Referee: Gil Manzano