Mosa’ab Elshamy/Associated Press
Ousmane Dembele scored a brilliant winner as Barcelona beat Sevilla to win the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday.
Ernesto Valverde’s side were forced to come from behind after Pablo Sarabia had curled the ball past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen on nine minutes.
Barcelona hit back when Lionel Messi’s free-kick hit the post, deflected off goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik and fell nicely for Gerard Pique to poke home from close range.
The Spanish champions dominated the second half, but it needed a moment of magic from Dembele, who fired a shot from range into the top corner, to separate the two sides.
Sevilla had a glorious chance to send the game into extra time after winning a penalty in stoppage time. However, Ter Stegen dived low to his left to save from Wissam Ben Yedder.
Dembele Offers Hope He Can Finally Shine
Valverde handed Dembele a start after a summer which saw him help France win the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, the Frenchman was also heavily linked with a move away from the Camp Nou.
The Barcelona boss said before the match he did not know if there was an option for Dembele to leave amid rumours of interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal, per ESPN FC’s Sam Marsden.
Sports writer Andy West said Sunday’s match was an important one for Dembele:
Andy West @andywest01
Pleased to see Ousmane Dembele start for Barça tonight. His second season needs to be a whole lot better than his first, and this gives him the chance to give an early sign of intent. Important game for him.
Valverde returned to a 4-3-3 formation against Sevilla with Dembele featuring alongside Messi and Luis Suarez in attack.
The Frenchman was a lively presence throughout the match with his pace and willingness to run at the Sevilla defence with the ball. Yet he also did not neglect his defensive duties and was willing to track back.
He also turned out to be the match winner with a stunning effort. With the game heading towards the final 10 minutes, he picked up possession outside the penalty area and fired the ball into the top corner.
Sports journalist Robbie Dunne offered his view of the goal:
Robbie Dunne @robbiejdunne
Lord, what a finish by Dembele! Vaclik has been really good but he had no chance with that. You could have given him inspector gadget arms and still would have been a goal.
It was a moment of pure brilliance from Dembele, and an illustration of just how much talent the 21-year-old possesses. His debut season was interrupted by injury, but Barcelona will hope he can kick on and finally fulfill his potential at the Camp Nou.
Suarez at Risk of Losing His Place
Suarez had a game to forget for Barcelona. The Uruguayan looked well off the pace and lacked sharpness in front of goal.
He was also guilty of giving the ball away on countless occasions in a sloppy showing. Suarez did have some good chances to score, but his shooting was also wayward as he fired wide when well placed.
Suarez also struggled at times last season, although he was troubled by a knee injury. At times he missed good chances, made poor decisions, and there’s a sense he might be starting to decline.
Valverde rarely rested Suarez last season, but other than Paco Alcacer, he had few options of players who could come in for the 31-year-old.
This season it is a different story, and Suarez may find his place under threat if his poor form continues into the new campaign, per football journalist Rik Sharma:
Rik Sharma @riksharma_
Suarez playing like he did for three months at the start of last season – badly. Difference now is Valverde has more options if he wants to try something different, should Suarez not improve.
Barcelona have more options in attack with Malcom having arrived from Bordeaux, Dembele fit again and Philippe Coutinho also available to play in attack with Messi.
Arthur Will Earn Regular Place in Barcelona’s Midfield
Arthur Melo is another summer signing who has already impressed for his new club during their pre-season tour of the United States.
The Brazilian was handed another start on Sunday and wore the No. 8 shirt last donned by club legend Andres Iniesta.
It was an assured performance from the 22-year-old, who always wanted the ball, looked to move it quickly and seems at home in a Barcelona shirt.
He faces a tough battle to force his way into the Barcelona midfield with Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal all vying for a spot in Valverde’s team.
Yet Arthur has made a big impression in his short time at the club. Valverde will need to rotate his players to challenge at home and in Europe, and Arthur should get plenty of chances to earn a regular place in the team.
Barcelona begin their La Liga title defence on Saturday with Alaves the visitors to the Camp Nou. Sevilla travel to Lithuania to play the second leg of their UEFA Europa League qualifier against Zalgiris Vilnius on Thursday. They lead 1-0 from the first leg in Spain.