For once, though, Messi was not the hero as one of his team-mates stepped up to produce a spectacular winner, and that tops our three key conclusions from this curtain raiser to the new season.
DEMBELE COMES OF AGE
Ousmane Dembele suffered a torrid first season at Barcelona after joining for a nine-figure fee from Borussia Dortmund in the wake of Neymar’s shock departure last summer, missing a large chunk of the campaign through injury and often looking out of place when he did get onto the pitch.
The young forward’s struggles inevitably led to transfer speculation, and Dembele headed into this game surrounded by reports that he could be lured away from Camp Nou by Paris Saint-Germain.
But on the evidence presented on Sunday night, Dembele has absolutely no intention of quitting Barcelona and instead has his mind set upon proving himself to be a major – if delayed – success story for the Catalan giants.
Lining up on the left of a front three, Dembele was bright and lively from the opening whistle, regularly threatening to destabilise Sevilla’s defence with his unpredictable and skilful dribbling.
And his ability to conjure up the unexpected eventually proved decisive, as he became the match-winner by finding space on the edge of the box and rifling an unstoppable rising drive high into the net. There’s a long way to go, but if he continues like this Dembele can become a big star at Barcelona.
VAR-M WELCOME FOR VIDEO REPLAYS
This season-opening showpiece in Morocco saw a few footnotes of Spanish football history written, becoming the first Super Cup to be contested over one game rather than two legs and the first to be held overseas.
Even more significantly, it was also the first time that match officials were able to call upon video assistance, and it didn’t take long for VAR to make an impact.
Just nine minutes had been played when Pablo Sarabia latched onto Luis Muriel’s pass to convert for Sevilla, but his joy was short-lived as the linesman’s flag was raised for offside. However, after a quick review referee Carlos del Cerro Grande overturned that original decision as video replays showed Sarabia was onside when the pass was played, and the goal was rightly allowed to stand.
VAR will also be used in La Liga this season and, in theory at least, that should help to shoot down the conspiracy theories so beloved by fans of Barca and Real Madrid, who seem to enjoy believing their team is being victimised. And if it can quickly eradicate mistakes as it did on this occasion, it will be a welcome addition.
MURIEL SHINES, SUAREZ STUMBLES
The two South American centre forwards on display delivered markedly different performances, with Sevilla’s Luis Muriel catching the eye while Barca’s Luis Suarez endured a very tough night.
Colombia international Muriel was hit and miss last season, his first in Spain, often looking very dangerous but only netting nine goals and regularly frustrating with wasteful end product.
On this occasion, however, he suggested that he is ready to produce a much-improved second season as he regularly tormented Barca’s defence with his pace and direct running – including a dangerous surge and perceptive pass to tee up Sarabia for the opener.
Suarez, on the other hand, was a disaster zone, often failing to execute even easy passes and generally looking well off the pace. That can be excused because it was his first game since the World Cup, but Barca’s lack of a viable alternative – unless Paco Alcacer or Munir El Haddadi can come good – is a serious cause for concern as the new season looms because their current reliance upon a 31-year-old could prove unsustainable.
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved a late penalty from Wissam Ben Yedder to cap a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory in the Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla.
An early counter-attack saw Pablo Sarabia open the scoring for the Andalusians at Tangier, Morocco’s Stade Ibn Batouta. This lead was cancelled out just before half-time when centre-back Gerard Pique was quickest to react when a Lionel Messi free-kick hit the woodwork.
Barca kept pressing and France winger Ousmane Dembele rocketed in the winner on 78 minutes. There was still time for Ter Stegen to deny Ben Yedder at the death from 12 yards, in this thrilling one-off encounter.
Here are our player ratings:
Marc-Andre ter Stegen 8: Excellent low save from Sarabia to prevent Sevilla retaking the lead, and secured the trophy by keeping out Ben Yedder’s weak penalty.
Nelson Semedo 7: A good attacking outlet down the right, regularly penetrating the area with overlapping runs. Also covered his tracks at the back.
Gerard Pique 6: Levelled for Barca by latching onto a rebound to slot home. Authoritative in possession but not always completely secure defensively.
Clement Lenglet 5: Missed a good headed chance from a free-kick and was vulnerable against the pace and trickery of Muriel.
Jordi Alba 7: Poor header for the opening goal but always a strong attacking presence, especially running onto Messi’s diagonal passes.
Rafinha 6: The hardest working of Barca’s midfield trio in the opening period, and showed energy going forward. Replaced at the break.
Sergio Busquets 7: Silky smooth in possession but occasionally frazzled by Sevilla’s counter-attacks, getting booked for impeding one Muriel run.
Arthur 6: Steady but unspectacular in midfield on his competitive debut, keeping things simple with his passing. Replaced by Coutinho.
Lionel Messi 7: Hit the post with a free-kick leading to the leveller, had a couple of efforts saved and played some delightful passes.
Luis Suarez 4: Worked hard but was well off the pace, dragging a shot wide and producing some heavy touches. Must get better.
Ousmane Dembele 8: Offered plenty of attacking spark, showing a growing understanding with Messi and thrashing home a brilliant strike for the winner.
33 - Lionel Messi’s 33 trophies as Barcelona player:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 12, 2018
LaLiga - 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆
Copa del Rey - 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆
Supercopa de España - 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆
Champions League - 🏆🏆🏆🏆
Supercopa de Europa - 🏆🏆🏆
Mundial de Clubes - 🏆🏆🏆
Ivan Rakitic 7: Made his first appearance since the World Cup Final as a half-time replacement for Rafinha. As reliable as ever.
Philippe Coutinho 7: Came into the midfield trio as he replaced Arthur, and always looked to create around the edge of the box.
Arturo Vidal N/A: Entered the fray in place of Dembele for the latter stages, shoring up the midfield as Barca played out time.
Tomas Vaclik 7: Competitive debut for the Czech keeper and he did well, including a stunning double save to deny Suarez and Messi.
Gabriel Mercado 6: Had his hands full with the pace of Dembele but stuck to his task and made a good block to deny a goalbound shot from Messi.
Simon Kjaer 6: Generally marshalled the defence well but also had some panicky moments inside the box, not exactly showing composure under pressure.
Sergi Gomez 7: Strong in the air in Sevilla’s back three and had the better of his personal duel with Suarez.
Jesus Navas 6: Had a good battle with Alba, whose presence hindered his usual attacking intentions. Sent a snapshot too close to ter Stegen.
Ever Banega 7: Oozed class in midfield, springing several dangerous attacks with his accurate and inventive passing. Sevilla’s key man in possession.
Roque Mesa 6: Intelligent presence in the centre of the pitch, switching play well with accurate long balls to the flanks.
Sergio Escudero 7: Disciplined and hard-working in the left wingback role, covering Semedo’s runs well and getting forward when he could.
Pablo Sarabia 7: Bagged the opener with a well-taken strike and nearly added another just before the break. Underrated player and shone again.
Luis Muriel 7: Did well to créate the opener and was always a threat going forward, especially when he ran at the defence with speed.
Franco Vazquez 6: Worked hard down the left, showing some good touches. Grazed the bar with a header and fired a low shot just wide.
Andre Silva 5: Portuguese striker made his Sevilla debut by replacing Muriel just 24 hours after joining from AC Milan. Kept quiet.
Aleix Vidal 6: Came on for the final 20 minutes to face his former club and won the penalty which could have forced extra time.
Wissam Ben Yedder 4: The last throw of the dice from Pablo Machin, but ruined his team’s chances of extra time with a terrible penalty.
Good morning Blaugrana fans! The Sport360 team is here bringing you the latest news from the Camp Nou.
This evening, Barcelona face Sevilla in the one-legged Spanish Super Cup final (12am UAE time) at the Stade Ibn Batouta in Tangier, Morocco.
The fixture gives Ernesto Valverde’s men one more preparation match ahead of the new season and their La Liga home clash with Alaves next Sunday.
4:44pm – Gerard Pique gives his thoughts ahead of Spanish Super Cup final
Africa may be unfamiliar surroundings for Barcelona – but they will glimpse the familiar sight of silverware should everything go according to plan against Sevilla.
Barca defender Gerard Pique has been giving his thoughts ahead of the Spanish Super Cup final in Morocco on Sunday night.
Watch the video here.
1:30pm – Sevilla threaten to pull out of Spanish Super Cup final
Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup final may not go ahead after Sevilla threatened to pull out of the match if Barcelona field more than three non-EU players.
The Spanish football federation had placed no restrictions on the use of players from outside the EU for the fixture, which is different to La Liga, in which teams are only allowed to include three per squad.
For more on this story, click here.
11:28am – Barcelona prop up International Champions Cup table
Barcelona have propped up this year’s International Champions Cup table after a series of high-profile friendlies this summer between 18 of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Read more here.
10:57am – Barcelona would reportedly listen to offers for Ousmane Dembele
Paris Saint-Germain’s ‘repeated’ interest in Ousmane Dembele means Barcelona could consider selling the French winger before the end of August.
Barca are reportedly ready to consider selling Dembele to PSG or any other club if the right offer comes in.
Read more here.
9:57am – Full-strength Barcelona squad travel to Morocco
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 11, 2018