Barcelona’s hopes of reaching the final of the 2020/21 Copa del Rey are on the ropes after slumping to a 2-0 defeat at Sevilla in their semi-final first leg on Wednesday night at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.
Jules Kounde scored a spectacular goal to earn the hosts a first-half lead, before former Barcelona player Ivan Rakitic netted in the second half to give the Andalusians a healthy lead on aggregate going into next month’s second leg.
Aiding in the cause was goalkeeper Bono, who made a trio of top-notch saves to deny Lionel Messi from scoring for Barcelona.
Ronald Koeman raised an eyebrow or two with the inclusion of Junior Firpo into the back-line instead of Clement Lenglet, while Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong were tasked as the midfield support for the preferred attacking trio of Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.
Barcelona had the first chance through a perfectly weight pass from Griezmann that floated into Messi, but Bono came up big to deny the Argentine. That was followed by the first scoring opportunity for the hosts, with Kounde swinging a shot wide.
Kounde’s first effort might have missed the mark, but the second was right on target, as the French defender swivelled and swerved his way through the Barcelona defence, putting Samuel Umtiti through the rinse cycle before firing into net for a 1-0 Sevilla lead.
With the lead, Sevilla exerted their control and comfortably possessed the ball, while maintaining a good defensive shape when Barcelona had the ball at their feet. The Andalusians had a golden opportunity to double their lead just seconds before half-time, but Sergio Escudero’s slicing shot was saved over the crossbar by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Youssef En-Nesyri was next to have a go at getting a second goal early in the second half when he slipped past Oscar Mingueza, but a last-ditch tackle from Umtiti snuffed out the chance.
Messi started to make his presence felt and if not for a fingertip save from Bono, it would have been level before the hour mark.
Some controversy arose later in the half on a Barcelona penalty shout when Jordi Alba tangled with Suso in the Sevilla area, but referee Mateu Lahoz signalled that the foul took place outside the area.
Koeman finally made his first substitution in the final 10 minutes with Riqui Puig on for an ineffective Pedri, but Sevilla were the team to strike next when Rakitic got behind the slipping Umtiti and the former Barcelona man finished with aplomb past Ter Stegen to make it 2-0.
Messi had one final look at a goal in the waning minutes via free-kick, but for the third time on the night he was denied by a stretch save from Bono, capping a memorable night for the men in white.