In truth, if it wasn’t for the referee, Barcelona wouldn’t have won at Sevilla. Cesc Fabregas would have never scored two goals, David Villa couldn’t have scored the winning goal and most of the focus would have gone to Lionel Messi having his worse game of the season, left goalless for the second consecutive time.
But sometimes, referees are more than just neutral arbitrators for 90 minutes. Sometimes, their judgement is skewed after the first 45 minutes receiving constant pressure from Xavi, Messi and Busquets. In truth, he did miss some calls which benefited Sevilla during the first half, but there was nothing serious about them. In the second half, he sent off Gery Medel for no reason at all, falling for Cesc Fabregas’ impressive act of being headbutted. It was only a chest bump, but Vilanova, in the post match interview, refused to recognize Lahoz’ own effect on the match.
One minute before the end of the 90 minutes, 17 after Medel was sent off, came a second huge mistake from Lahoz. In his defense, he missed that handball, probably, from viewing the replay, because his head was turned into a different direction. But that’s hardly any defense at all, when Thiago was less than a meter away from him, and it was his second huge mistake that gave Barcelona a chance to equalize. Thiago passed the ball onward and Fabregas found himself in the box, one on one with Palop, scoring his second goal of the match. David Villa finished the job in injury time.
The worst performance by Barcelona this season? Undoubtedly. Sevilla made life impossible for Real Madrid three weeks earlier, and did the same to Barcelona, who are playing without a single natural centre back, as it has showed too often over the last couple of weeks. Alex Song forgot that he needs to use his body when trying to stop a striker, and that he’s the last stop before Valdes. The first goal was more due to a lucky bounce off of Mascherano’s heel, but the Argentinian isn’t looking too confident playing in the middle of defense without an actual centre back to cover for him.
Sevilla showed that without Xavi, Barcelona can look hopeless. It’s in these matches when the entire middle looks completely jammed, with Messi falling back to help and Fabregas looking hopeless. Alexis continues his bad form, while Pedro has never played well on the left side. Messi couldn’t get shots off and couldn’t even build up plays well, as Sevilla closed down wonderfully with Maduro and Medel in the middle. Fabregas’ first goal did open things up a bit for Barcelona, who changed their formation a bit in the second half, but it was only thanks to Lahoz that their sixth consecutive win came by.
For Fabregas, it didn’t really matter, as he ended a goal drought that went on for nearly nine months, scoring his last La Liga goal against Espanyol back in January. He didn’t play well for most of the match, but in the second half did look much more dangerous and involved, covering for Messi on his weakest day in a long long time. Life without Iniesta seems hard on everyone.
David Villa came on with 11 minutes to go and scored another late one, his second of the season. Villa is what Barcelona are missing. An actual striker, which gives the defense another player to focus on instead of having both Alexis and Pedro spend their time on the wing. Messi will benefit from a bit more space and less attention, and Barcelona will look a lot more dangerous, regardless of their defensive problems.