Ousmane Dembele rises to the challenge as Barcelona lift record 13th Spanish Super Cup
TANGIER, Morocco --Three points from Stade Ibn Batouta on Barcelona's 2-1 win over Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup.
1. Barcelona win record 13th Spanish Super Cup
Ousmane Dembele began what he hopes will be his breakout season with Barcelona by scoring the winning goal as La Liga champions Barcelona beat Sevilla to win the Spanish Super Cup in Morocco on Sunday.
Dembele's first season at Camp Nou following a €105 million move from Borussia Dortmund was disrupted by injury problems, and he has been linked with a move away from the club this summer.
However, the France international sent a message to the doubters, rifling home a superb second-half winner in Tangier after Gerard Pique had cancelled out Pablo Sarabia's opener.
The headlines were nearly stolen from him when Aleix Vidal, who joined Sevilla from Barca last week, was brought down by Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the final minute of the 90. The German goalkeeper, though, redeemed himself by saving from Wissam Ben Yedder.
Barca were on the front foot from the start, but it was Sevilla who took the lead when Sarabia struck after brilliant play by Luis Muriel. The goal was ruled out for offside at first, but that decision was reversed by the VAR, which was being used in Spanish football for the first time.
The equaliser arrived via a dead ball -- and Lionel Messi. The Argentine's free kick hit the post, then bounced back on to the post via goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik's back. When it bounced out again, Pique was best placed to slot home his 40th goal for the club.
Ter Stegen then made a brilliant save from Sarabia as Barca switched off from the restart.
Vaclik was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the second half, though. He kept out a Messi free kick before making another stop from Dembele, who should have made more of Messi's fine through ball. An inspired double save would follow from Luis Suarez and Messi.
Franco Vazquez flicked Ever Banega's corner onto the bar at the other end as Sevilla threatened before Jesus Navas shot straight at Ter Stegen.
It was almost from nothing that Dembele then won the game for Barca with 12 minutes to go. Picking up the ball on top right corner of the box, he sent it angling into the top left corner of the goal, leaving Vaclik helpless.
Ter Stegen looked helpless, too, when Vidal tumbled over him in the dying minutes, but he dusted himself off to save from Ben Yedder and earn Barca their 13th Spanish Super Cup ahead of next week's La Liga curtain-raiser against Alaves.
2. Messi leads, Dembele steps up
New season, same Messi. Despite being one of six Barcelona starters making their first appearance of the season -- the World Cup meant half the squad missed the tour of the United States -- he was still able to dictate the game.
His usual array of tricks were on display: that now famous diagonal pass to Jordi Alba, free-kick accuracy, incisive through balls, late arrivals into the box ...
It was only sloppy finishing from his teammates and good goalkeeping from Vaclik that prevented him ending the game with more assists and goals as he won his 33rd trophy with Barca -- edging clear of Andres Iniesta as the club's most decorated player.
Messi was not the match-winner this time, though. That honour fell to Dembele, who played wide on the left just one week after returning to training following a summer of World Cup glory with France.
Dembele, still only 21, showed signs of life in the first half, his pace and check-backs drawing gasps from the crowd even if he wasn't always on the same wavelength as Suarez.
However, his moment came in the second period when he created a goal out of almost nothing. Coach Ernesto Valverde has said he wants Dembele to stay and showed him how much by starting him here -- and he responded.
3. Machin blueprint clear at Sevilla
Sevilla will lament a late penalty miss denying them the chance to take the game to extra time, but, with hindsight, they will look back on the positives.
Pablo Machin came in as the club's new coach in the summer and has them well placed to progress in the Europa League qualifiers already. Sunday's performance against Barca was another sign that the players are already responding to what he wants.
At Girona -- whom he saved from relegation to the third division, took to La Liga and then finished 10th with last season -- he was best known for his 5-3-2 formation (or 3-5-2, however you want to look at it). It's already clear that's what he wants to recreate at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
He's perhaps still lacking the players to do exactly what he would like, but the players he has at his disposal are much better on paper than those that he had at Girona. Pablo Sarabia, whose €18m release clause is scarily low for Sevilla, was the pick of the bunch against Barca.
Muriel, often so infuriating last year, also impressed as the lone forward, and Machin was able to show depth, too, with the introductions of Vidal, Jesus Navas and Andre Silva, who joined the club from AC Milan on Friday.