Injuries to Jeremy Mathieu and Andres Iniesta put something of a dampener on the Catalans’ victory in Andalucia
Luis Suarez and Munir El Haddadi ensured Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-0 in the opening leg of the Supercopa de Espana but victory at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan came at a price for Luis Enrique’s men.
Sevilla made most of the running during the first half where Barca’s initially fitful progress was not helped by the loss of captain Andres Iniesta and Jeremy Mathieu to injury.
The participation of club icon Iniesta and defender Mathieu in Wednesday’s second leg at Camp Nou could now be in doubt, but their team-mates will at last take a healthy advantage into that encounter.
Following a sensational return of 59 goals from 53 club matches last term, Suarez was soon back on the goal trail with a 54th-minute opener.
Sevilla’s form faded from that point – their exertions in pushing Real Madrid to extra time in this week’s UEFA Super Cup possibly a factor – and the second goal arrived nine minutes from time.
Munir was the first non-enforced substitution made by Luis Enrique and, amid his ongoing search for attacking reinforcements, the Barcelona boss was given a timely reminder of the 20-year-old’s quality.
Sevilla, featuring five close-season signings in their starting XI, answered boss Jorge Sampaoli’s call to take the game to Barcelona and made most of the early running to excite a fervent home crowd, despite Sergio Rico being forced into a sharp seventh-minute save to deny Suarez.
Unfortunately for the Europa League holders, their threat down the flanks was rarely matched by the quality of their final ball, while a counter-attack featuring Suarez and Lionel Messi lacked the forward duos trademark ruthlessness before Sergio Busquets lofted a shot harmlessly over.
Attempts by Luis Enrique’s team to settle were dealt a blow when Mathieu made way with an apparent hamstring injury, allowing fellow Frenchman Lucas Digne to come on for his debut at left-back.
Iniesta was then on the receiving end of a robust challenge from Mariano and, with the Barca captain failing to overcome a heavy blow to his right knee, Denis Suarez followed Digne in making an earlier-than-planned debut in the 36th minute of a bruising first half for LaLiga’s champions.
Rico’s impeccable positioning came to Sevilla’s aid four minutes after the break when Luis Suarez glanced a beautifully flighted cross from his namesake Denis goalwards and the same two players were involved when Barcelona broke the deadlock.
Denis Suarez was allowed space to pick a pass into the area once more, where Arda Turan pivoted to cleverly chest the ball into Luis Suarez’s path for a typically clinical finish.
The goal shifted Barcelona into gear and Rico’s reactions were at their best to claw a dinked finish from Messi to safety before the Sevilla goalkeeper denied Sergi Roberto at the near post in the 64th minute.
Messi linked effectively with the right-back on that occasion and the mercurial Argentine made light of Iniesta’s absence by masterfully holding up play, gliding through midfield and threading a perfect pass for Munir to prod past the on-rushing Rico as Sevilla’s earlier verve faded from view.