Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona
Xavi and Messi on target as Pep Guardiola's men stay in title race
Pep Guardiola's side earned a fairly straightforward victory away from home as the reigning champions continue their fight to defend the Liga title they won last season
Barcelona cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win against Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday to provisionally reduce Real Madrid's lead at the summit of La Liga to seven points.
Xavi opened the scoring for Pep Guardiola's side with a well-struck free kick before Lionel Messi's sumptuous finish added a second for the reigning champions, who had the result wrapped up by the interval.
Before kick-off, both sets of fans and players in the stadium sent their well wishes to Eric Abidal, who is set to undergo a liver transplant. Once the football began, it was the visitors who made the brighter start to proceedings and nearly opened the scoring on eight minutes thanks to a fortunate deflection. Adriano made his way towards the Sevilla goal before trying his luck from the edge of the box. His shot deflected off the leg of Emir Spahic before rebounding off the top of the crossbar, much to the relief of Andres Palop.
Four minutes later a clever Messi pass picked out Pedro in space as he ran through on goal. However, the attacker tried to be too clever with his finish, hitting the ball with the outside of his foot as the goalkeeper made a smart save.
The Blaugrana made their early dominance count when they grabbed a deserved opener on 18 minutes. After being awarded a free kick just outside the box, Xavi duly stepped up to curl the ball over the wall and into the top corner of the net despite Palop's best efforts to keep it out. It was the experienced midfielder's ninth Liga goal of the season.
Guardiola's men doubled their lead on 25 minutes through a moment of Messi magic; the Argentine's 51st competitive goal this term for Barca. The 24-year-old played a clever one-two with Andres Iniesta before nutmegging Spahic and lifting the ball over the keeper with deadly precision.
However, despite the Catalans controlling play in the opening half hour, Sevilla sprung into life and nearly pulled a goal back on 33 minutes following some poor defending from Gerard Pique. The former Manchester United defender failed to deal with Jesus Navas' speculative cross as Manu del Moral sneaked in behind him to power his header against the crossbar.
In first-half stoppage time Sevilla had Palop to thank for keeping them in the game. After some great build-up play, Messi slid the ball to Cesc Fabregas who saw his shot from 15 yards out blocked at point-blank range by the veteran glovesman.
The Andalusians continued to miss decent opportunities in the second period with Manu again the guilty party on 65 minutes. Navas whipped an inviting ball towards the back post but the forward could only watch on as he slid it wide of the target, much to the relief of the visiting defence.
The Blaugrana could have put the result beyond doubt on 73 minutes when Messi found Iniesta with a precise through ball. The Spain International looked to have committed the keeper but could only dink his shot wide, while Messi also had a late strike disallowed for offside as his side comfortably held on for the three points.
Barcelona return to league action on Tuesday evening when they entertain Granada while Sevilla will hope to bounce back from defeat on Thursday away against Racing Santander.
Tonight Real Madrid vs Malaga.