x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sevilla shock world-beaters Barca

Few teams beat Barca at Camp Nou, but on Tuesday Sevilla triumphed over the all-conquering Catalans 2-1 in an engrossing King's Cup game.

Negredo and Diego Capel with Puerto's shirt.
Negredo and Diego Capel with Puerto's shirt.

The Sevilla players celebrated as if they had won the European Cup. A clutch of them ran towards the tiny away following of 150 and hurled their shirts through the rain into the adoring followers. Their 1,000 kilometre journey from Barcelona back to Andalusia would be a long and happy one.

Few teams beat Barca at Camp Nou, but on Tuesday Sevilla triumphed over the all-conquering Catalans 2-1 in an engrossing King's Cup game. When former Real Madrid striker Negredo scored what would be their winning goal, the whole team ran to the bench, where a shirt worn by Antonio Puerta - the defender who tragically lost his life after collapsing during a match in 2008 - was lifted into the air.

They don't forget their own in Sevilla and they're in it together. With crucial players like Freddie Kanoute and Didier Zokora missing ahead of their involvement in the African Cup of Nations and top scorer Luis Fabiano also absent through injury, the out-of-form Andalusians were underdogs. Instead, second-half goals from man of the match Diego Capel and Negredo, via a converted penalty, gave them a famous victory.

Barca restricted the defeat to a single goal thanks to a spectacular Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike. "It is tremendously difficult to beat the best team in the world," said the delighted coach Manolo Jimenez as he savoured victory after the game. Sevilla were worthy winners, a fact conceded by Barca coach Pep Guardiola, who also played down wild conjecture that the best team in the world had suddenly turned into no-hopers.

"I think it's a little early to start talking about an end of an era," was his wry comment. Privately, he will have been concerned though at the form of central defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who was openly booed by his own fans. The 23-year-old joined Barca from Shakhtar Donetsk at the end of August for ?25million (Dh131.3m). He gave the ball away several times and conceded the penalty that led to the winner.

It was only the first leg of the last- 16 tie, but a Barca side who have made a lacklustre start to 2010 face an uphill battle in the return leg. The pair meet again in the league next weekend in Barcelona in what will be the third clash between the two sides in 11 days. Sevilla will be wary of a vengeful Barca, especially as their own form has been less than spectacular. Manuel Jimenez's side play 13th place Racing Santander tonight hoping that the victory at Camp Nou will lift what had become a flagging season. With just one league win since November, the team who beat Real in October have slipped to fifth after a series of disappointing results.

Draws at home to Malaga and Valladolid are not good enough for a team aiming to repeat last term's achievement of reaching the Champions league. Their squad is brimming with brilliant individuals like Jesus Navas, Kanoute, Fabiano, winger Diego Perotti and Barca tormentor Diego Capel, but their greatest strength is that they play so well as a team. In tonight's other games, an improving Villarreal who were worthy of their point at Barcelona last Saturday, host an Almeria side who achieved a much needed win last week - even if it was against bottom club Xerez. Twelfth place Valladolid entertain an Atletico Madrid side beaten 3-0 in the Copa Del Rey by second division Recreativo Huelva.

@Email:amitten@thenational.ae Sevilla v Racing Santander, 11pm, Aljazeera Sport +2