A late penalty save allowed Barcelona to conquer the Spanish Super Cup title. These are the five things we learnt from their showdown against Sevilla
1 – VAR is going to be fun (and fair) as hell
It took just eight minutes to realise just how enjoyable La Liga will be once the usual referee bias for big teams is watered down thanks to technology. In a few seconds, the ref was reassured that Sevilla’s Pablo Sarabia wasn’t in an offside position and his goal was 100% legal.
After extensive testing in the World Cup and a high success rate, finally La Liga may bring in some much-needed fairness in crucial plays that used to be overlooked or benefitted bigger sides.
2 – Machín wants to forge a Girona 2.0
Sevilla ultimately lost the game and the Spanish Super Cup, but they didn’t perform poorly. Not by a long shot. Possibly they could’ve been more ambitious at some points as Barça’s pace wasn’t the best and they had many players out of top physical condition, but Sevilla nonetheless did their job: they showed order, discipline, good defensive habits and tried out-running the opposition in quick breaks and counter-attacks.
We could perceive what Pablo Machín is trying to do: replicate his successful model in Girona but swapping some key players in the midfield and up front, enhancing the individual quality and never sacrificing a clean sheet in favour of style or flair. A solid, sober, serious, down-to-earth side which guarantees top level competition under any circumstance.
3 – Spain’s loss regarding Piqué is Barça’s win
After learning that Gerard Piqué wouldn’t play again for the Spanish national team, many eyes were on the center-back in his first official appearance after the World Cup. He didn’t disappoint; in fact, he was a solid as ever and even managed to score the lucky goal right off the post that allowed Barça to even the score (1-1).
This is great news for Barça fans. Gerard, now 31, is no longer a kid. After his breakthrough season under Pep Guardiola in 2008, he’s spent the last decade on an uninterrupted spree of club football and the additional games with Spain. Focused only on Barça, he may be able to ration his efforts and squeeze every drop of performance with his team, which became a tad uneven last season.
4 – Dembelé wants a spot in this Barça
Ousmane Dembelé has coped with an uncomfortable summer. Barça’s signing policy seemed to forget that they had spent big cash on him only one-year-ago. Yes, his debut season might have been disappointing due to adaptation problems and an injury that kept him away from playing for a few months, but the sophomore season would be much better. Right?
Somebody at Barça’s board seems to think otherwise, as Demebelé’s name has been linked with potential transfers this summer. However, Ernesto Valverde trusts his player. That’s why he made him a starter on Sunday. And that’s why the 21-year-old responded in true superstar fashion: 90% pass accuracy, three take-ons, three chances created, overall presence across the field, two shots and an absolute rocket of a goal. Talk about vindication.
5 – Messi keeps evolving into the ultimate footballer
After picking up the cup and celebrating with his team-mates, cold, hard stats once again stated something obvious: Lionel Messi is an absolute legend and he’s ‘only’ 31. With this Super Cup, he’s now Barcelona’s top all-time championship winner with 33 trophies. Utterly ridiculous.
Against Sevilla, Leo showed how far he’s come from that tiny, skinny kid who used to play as a winger. Now redefining the playing style of a ‘number 10’ every single time he sets a foot on a pitch, he now has the extra workload of replacing both Xavi and Iniesta in midfield and playmaking positions. And he does it wonderfully: passing, dribbling, pressing…he did everything on Sunday. He capped it with an excellent free-kick which preluded Piqué’s goal. He only missed on his scoring duties, but something tells us that he won’t take that long next game.