Daily Observer (Jamaica)

Barca held by Sevilla as Real Madrid see off Le­vante

- Sports · Soccer · La Liga (Spain) · FC Barcelona · Sevilla FC · Real Madrid F.C. · Madrid · Spain national football team · Spain · Barcelona · Camp Nou · Philippe Coutinho · Ronald Koeman · Karim Benzema · Antoine Griezmann · Zinedine Zidane · A.S. Roma · Rome · Lionel Messi · Levante UD · Luuk de Jong · Borja Mayoral · Jesús Navas · Thibaut Courtois · Sergio Ramos García

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Barcelona dropped their first points of the sea­son yes­ter­day as Sevilla made a state­ment of in­tent in La Liga’s ti­tle race by draw­ing 1-1 at Camp Nou.

Luuk de Jong gave Sevilla an early lead and while Philippe Coutinho lev­elled two minutes later, the vis­i­tors were ar­guably the bet­ter side in a frantic con­test.

The draw brings an end to Ron­ald Koe­man’s per­fect start as Barca coach but he might not be too dis­pleased with a point, even if his team also had chances to snatch a win­ner.

“We were less en­er­getic than in the first two games through that also de­pends on the op­po­si­tion,” said Koe­man. “They have de­fended well.”

Real Madrid are three points ahead of Barcelona but hav­ing played a game more, af­ter their 2-0 win over Le­vante ear­lier yes­ter­day sent them to the top of the ta­ble.

Goals from Vini­cius Ju­nior and Karim Ben­zema sealed vic­tory for the reign­ing cham­pi­ons, who have now won three games on the bounce.

Nei­ther Madrid nor Barca are ex­pected to be busy on the last day of the trans­fer win­dow to­day, with both clubs find­ing them­selves fi­nan­cially re­stricted by the novel coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

But some play­ers could be al­lowed to leave and it was no­tice­able that Koe­man left Ous­mane Dem­bele on the bench, even as his team searched for a win­ner.

Koe­man pre­ferred to bring on the youth­ful duo of Fran­cisco Trin­cao and Pedri.

“Things can hap­pen,” said Koe­man af­ter­wards when asked about Dem­bele. “Right now he’s a Barca player, let’s see. There is one day left; play­ers can come in or go out.”

An­toine Griez­mann also of­fered very lit­tle down the right but the French­man will be given more time un­der Koe­man.

Luka Jovic was dropped to the bench by Zine­dine Zi­dane and not brought on, but he is ex­pected to stay af­ter the de­par­ture of Borja May­oral to Roma.

De Jong put Sevilla in front af­ter eight minutes as Barcelona failed to re­act to a short cor­ner and then failed to clear, the ball sit­ting up nicely for the striker to smash in.

WE HAD TO SUF­FER

But the lead lasted less than two minutes — a bril­liant, curved ball over the top by Lionel Messi caus­ing panic in the Sevilla de­fence, where Jesus Navas slid to in­ter­cept but only teed up the resur­gent Coutinho to fin­ish.

Messi sent a bend­ing shot past the far post and Ansu Fati hit straight at the goal­keeper, but Sevilla were the ones in the as­cen­dancy.

Barcelona strug­gled to get out from the back un­der pres­sure from Sevilla’s high press and Ron­ald Araujo al­most scored an own goal, spared by the post af­ter Youssef En-nesyri’s run down the left.

Trin­cao and Pedri were both thrown on by Koe­man and Trin­cao might have won it af­ter be­ing put through by Messi late on. But Sevilla goal­keeper Bono made the stop to earn his team a de­served point.

Madrid, mean­while, reg­is­tered a third clean sheet in four games to see off Le­vante as Vini­cius and a late strike from Ben­zema sealed vic­tory.

“We had to suf­fer,” said Zine­dine Zi­dane. “We had chances in the sec­ond half to kill the game and that would have made it dif­fer­ent. We suf­fered a lot be­cause they also had chances.”

Zi­dane’s team have be­come some­thing of a de­fen­sive jug­ger­naut af­ter their so­lid­ity and re­silience formed the ba­sis of their suc­cess­ful ti­tle bid last term.

Le­vante have man­aged only one vic­tory from their first four matches and this de­feat meant they dropped into the rel­e­ga­tion places.

Vini­cius gave Madrid the lead af­ter 16 minutes when Le­vante failed to clear a cor­ner and the Brazil­ian calmly curled in for his sec­ond goal in as many games.

He could have made it two but over­hit a pass in­tended for Ben­zema and then Le­vante hit the cross­bar, Nikola Vuck­e­vic at the back post al­most cap­i­tal­is­ing on some hes­i­ta­tion from Thibaut Cour­tois.

Le­vante found it dif­fi­cult to cope with Madrid’s press­ing and Ben­zema and Vini­cius both should have scored when twice they won the ball back in dan­ger­ous po­si­tions.

Ser­gio Ramos also had a headed goal ruled out for off­side but Le­vante went close to a late equaliser as Clerc and Enis Bardhi both tested Cour­tois.

In­stead, Ben­zema tore away on the break in in­jury time and fin­ished to com­plete a con­vinc­ing win.

 ?? (Photo: AFP) ?? Barcelona’s Brazil­ian mid­fielder Philippe Coutinho (sec­ond right) scores dur­ing the Span­ish League foot­ball match be­tween FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC, at Camp Nou sta­dium in Barcelona yes­ter­day.
(Photo: AFP) Barcelona’s Brazil­ian mid­fielder Philippe Coutinho (sec­ond right) scores dur­ing the Span­ish League foot­ball match be­tween FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC, at Camp Nou sta­dium in Barcelona yes­ter­day.

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