BARCELONA, Spain, April 4 – A marvelous goal from Pedri proved the difference for Barcelona on Sunday as a 1-0 win over Sevilla lifted Xavi Hernandez’s side to second place in La Liga for the first time this season.
Barca missed a string of chances against a tenacious Sevilla at Camp Nou before 19-year-old Pedri settled the game with a moment of magic, dancing in space at the edge of the area before firing into the corner.
The win continues Barcelona’s recent surge as they backed up their 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid before the international break with a convincing victory against the side that have been Madrid’s main title challengers all season.
Madrid overtook Celta Vigo on Saturday to quell suggestions their Clasico nightmare could even cause a late collapse and let Barca get back in the game.
A 12-point advantage means it’s surely impossible now, but Barcelona are in the driver’s seat to finish second, which would be a remarkable achievement for a team that only a few months ago had serious concerns about miss the top four. When Xavi took over in November, they were ninth.
The last time the Catalans finished runners-up in La Liga after a full run of games was on May 10 last year, three matches before the end of last season.
“We are second but nothing is done,” said Xavi. “Although it is mathematically possible to fight for La Liga, we will continue to fight.”
Ousmane Dembele delivered another excellent display to reinforce the growing feeling that the Frenchman could still stay this summer, even if the club remain pessimistic.
Pedri, however, was the star of the show, a stunning performance in midfield complemented by a masterful goal that will only enhance the reputation of one of the most exciting young talents in the world.
“I encourage him to shoot,” Xavi said. “He always thinks about passing, he’s a passer, that’s something that happened to me too. But today he scored a great goal.
“When I say he’s an elite player, it’s because there’s hardly anyone who understands our style as well as he does.”
– Seville crisis continues –
Sevilla, meanwhile, continue to sparkle, drawing seven of their previous nine games before the defeat handed them two wins from 10.
Add to that the surprise Europa League exit at the hands of West Ham and Julen Lopetegui’s side risk suffering a miserable end to what looked to be a promising season.
Barcelona were the more assertive team in the first half, but it was only in the final 10 minutes that Sevilla felt uneasy as a host of chances presented themselves.
A sumptuous pass from Pedri freed Dembele on the right but his cut-back attempt was intercepted.
Then Pedri went for Dembele again, this time with a cut cross into the box and while Dembele nodded smartly through the six-yard box, neither Ferran Torres nor Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could convert.
Aubameyang was slipped by Dembele, only to have his finish ripped off by Bono as Sevilla survived goalless at the break.
The pattern, however, was set and while Sevilla were less frantic after the restart, Barcelona remained in charge. Dembele squared in for Torres, whose arrival was postponed. Jordi Alba cut for Torres but this time he got wide.
A sloppy pass from Dembele gave Ivan Rakitic a chance for a free-kick but he floated the shot just over it, allowing Barca’s onslaught to continue, with Gerard Pique driving wide then heading for the resulting corner against the crossbar. Sergio Busquets stole the rebound.
When Dembele missed the far post 20 minutes from time, it looked like Barca would never score, until Pedri intervened.
Dembele’s takedown found the teenager on the edge of the area but Rakitic and Diego Carlos were rushing towards him.
He floored Rakitic with a dummy, then left Diego Carlos for dead with a second, shooting through the sprawling bodies around him and into the bottom corner.