In an entertaining night of football, Sevilla beat Barcelona 2-0 in the Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg.
The Blaugrana started badly and ended badly but in the middle played some nice football albeit completely lacking in bite. Who were the winners and losers as Sevilla took control of this semi-final tie?
Winner: Jules Koundé
Jules Koundé is a centre-back.
That may seem like an obvious statement but it needs to be repeated because if you watch his goal against Barcelona, a goal that starts with him blowing by Antoine Griezmann like he’s not even there then switches to him ducking the ball between Samuel Umtiti’s legs before finally thrashing the ball into the back of the net low beyond the despairing dive of Marc-André Ter Stegen, you could forget it!
Koundé was sensational against Barcelona in their league encounter and he was again here in the Copa. The Frenchman shut down every attack the Blaugrana sent his way and a clean sheet was the gift he gave Sevilla.
Jules Koundé just proved he's one of the best young defenders you'll find.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 10, 2021
Loser: Samuel Umtiti
A week ago Samuel Umtiti played against Granada and was directly responsible for both of the opponents goals after some horrendous play in defence. His team-mates bailed him out on his last trip to Andalucia and tonight, after a week of rest (more or less), Umtiti got a chance at redemption.
But he didn’t take it.
As good as the Koundé goal was, the way that he moved beyond Umtiti was absolutely unforgivable from Barcelona’s perspective. Centre-back on centre-back violence usually takes place in the air but this time Koundé just humiliated his fellow defender.
Not satisified with embarrassing himself in the first-half, Umtiti followed up his first-half nonsense with a second-half blunder, foolishly trying to play offside against Ivan Rakitic instead of running with the one man he could actually keep up with in a footrace. Umtiti’s nonsense sent Rakitic clean through and he made no mistake.
That makes it four goals conceded in two Copa games and all four as a result of a direct mistake from Samuel Umtiti.
Winner: Ivan Rakitic
It’s “revenge of the scapegoats season” in Spain this year. Barcelona blamed all their ills last season on Luis Suárez and Ivan Rakitic, and while both men were poor and did have to leave, neither was the key issue at the Camp Nou and shouldn’t have been allowed to travel to rival clubs within Spain.
But they were. And so even though Rakitic hasn’t really played well this season for Sevilla he still came up huge at the Camp Nou, breaking through in the second-half before conjuring up a finish even more ruthlessly spectacular than Koundé’s. The Croatian blasted the ball into the roof of the net to give Sevilla a gigantic 2-0 lead going into the second-leg.
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Loser: Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann has been on a roll so far in 2021, scoring and assisting goals even if he hasn’t been playing well. Last week against Granada he bagged two goals and two assists in the win over Granada. He both played well and was decisive. Was this a turning of the corner for the misfit Frenchman?
Sure you couldn’t call his performance against Sevilla bad, because he seemed to almost avoid any sort of contact with the ball. Sure he tracked back, made his defensive runs, whatever. On the ball, or off the ball in attacking areas, he was a non-event. As Leo Messi and Ousmane Dembélé strained every sinew to try and make something happen, Griezmann just glided around the pitch without a care in the world doing nothing.
Winner: Julen Lopetegui
The Spanish coach really has put together an incredible side. Sevilla aren’t the most free-flowing side in the world, but they play good football in possession and get the ball forward quickly and efficiently. Then they are so defensively well-structured that after they took the lead through Jules Koundé you never felt like they were going to concede let alone lose.
Lopetegui was active with his subs, and every change improved his side in logical ways. He shifted players around, unlocking Barcelona time and again. One of those shifts led to their second goal on the night and a massive edge heading into next month’s second leg. Lopetegui really has Sevilla on the rise, so stay on the look-out!
Loser: Ronald Koeman
In many ways Koeman was handicapped tonight as the club came into it with neither of it’s best two centre-backs and right-backs. As a result Samuel Umtiti played despite playing last week against Granada and coming on at the weekend and Junior Firpo was at right-back and given that he’s underwhelming at his natural position of left-back you can only imagine how poor he is at right-back.
But Koeman was still so poor. His chosen XI wasn’t working and so rather than change it to try and alter his team’s shape he just let them keep plugging away. Antoine Griezmann was a hideous black hole of football and yet Koeman didn’t sub him off for some genuinely exciting young talent like Konrad de la Fuente or Alex Collado.
In fact Koeman made no subs at all until bringing Riqui Puig on for Pedri (a like-for-like swap) with five minutes left. This was three minutes after Lopetegui made his fifth substitution (one of whom set up the game-killing second goal, by the way).
It’s easy and reductive to label Ronald Koeman as “not good enough,” to coach Barcelona but the simple fact there is that it’s not reductive and it’s easy because it’s true. Koeman has a strong mentality but he has no idea how to structure his side. Shambolic.