Barcelona’s momentum in La Liga was punctured in Andalusia on Sunday evening as Sevilla held the Spanish champions to a 1-1, giving Real Madrid’s title hopes a giant boost.
A Jesus Navas goal four minutes into the second period cancelled out a Bojan Krkic effort on the half-hour mark, and although both sides had chances to win the game with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta being denied by the frame of the goal, the hugely enthralling match ended in a tie.
As expected Barcelona enjoyed most of the possession in the opening exchanges at the Pizjuan and had the ball inside the Sevilla net as early as the eighth minute when Messi bent a free-kick into the corner. However, it was ruled out for an alleged infringement on the part of Sergio Busquets and a couple of minutes later the Spanish champions could have conceded had Ivan Rakitic’s shot been on target.
Barca suffered an injury soon after as Pedro went off with a thigh problem and on came Bojan in his place, but could have broken the deadlock moments later when Busquets played Adriano through down the left flank only for Federico Fazio to make an important block.
Sevilla then had a penalty appeal turned down when Didier Zokora’s shirt appeared to have been tugged by Daniel Alves.
However, it was Pep Guardiola’s men who went ahead on the half-hour mark through Bojan. Andres Iniesta played in Alves over the top and the Brazil international right-back then slipped the ball to the 20-year-old, who slotted it home with ease.
The Blaugrana could have added to their tally moments later when Messi and David Villa had their chances. The Argentina international forward then hit the crossbar with a header from a Xavi delivery and also saw his free-kick saved by Sevilla goalkeeper Javi Varas.
The hosts had the last chance of the first-half when Navas whipped in a cross but Diego Capel failed to collect it and it went begging.
But Sevilla got their reward four minutes into the second half when Alvaro Negredo chipped the ball across the Barcelona goal and Navas nodded it in to equalise.
Negredo could have put Sevilla ahead just three minutes later when a mistake from Adriano saw the Spanish striker gain possession of the ball but he failed to keep his shot on target.
The Rojiblancos were threatening at this point and had been a rejuvenated side since the goal, but the visitors soon recovered their rhythm and regained control of the ball.
Then in the 73rd minute Barcelona thought that they had earned a penalty when Navas caught Bojan on the leg inside the area but the referee refused to listen to any appeal.
A couple of minutes later Diego Perotti and Navas combined as the former crafted a ball across the Barca goal but the latter’s low shot was blocked by Victor Valdes. Perotto then combined with Frederic Kanoute but the latter failed to keep his shot on target. Soon after the striker’s volley went straight to Valdes.
However, Barca finished the stronger of the two teams as Messi came close on 81 minutes and four minutes later Iniesta struck the Sevilla crossbar with a long-range effort.
The 1-1 draw in Seville means that Barcelona are now five points ahead of second-placed Real Madrid, who beat Hercules 2-0 at the Bernabeu on Saturday evening.
As for Sevilla, they remain in contention for a place in the Europa League next season.