FC Barcelona lifted the UEFA Super Cup for a joint record fifth time after defeating Sevilla 5-4 after extra-time in the competition’s highest-ever scoring final in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The Spanish outfit matched AC Milan’s tally of five Super Cup victories as goals from Lionel Messi (2), Rafinha, Luis Suarez and substitute Pedro handed the La Liga champions their first piece of silverware from a possible six this season following their nine-goal thriller heroics.
Barca looked destined for victory shorty after half-time when Suarez pounced to put the 2015 UEFA Champions League winners 4-1 ahead, but efforts from Ever Banega, Jose Antonio Reyes, Kevin Gameiro and substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka saw Unai Emery’s men fight to the very end to give fans all over the world a phenomenal game of football.
Barcelona, who defeated Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final back in June, were without Brazilian superstar Neymar due to mumps, meaning Rafinha was given the go ahead to complete the side’s attacking trio alongside Messi and Suarez.
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic started against his former club in Georgia, meanwhile Manchester United target Pedro was only named on manager Luis Enrique’s bench.
Meanwhile Sevilla, who lifted the 2015 UEFA Europa League earlier this year after beating Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-2, were without last season’s top goalscorer Carlos Bacca after the Colombian hitman sealed a switch to Serie A giants AC Milan earlier this summer.
Boss Emery will depend on French forward Gameiro to take on the goalscoring burden; meanwhile former Arsenal winger Reyes captained the Red and Whites inside the Boris Paichadze Stadium.
Despite all the pre-match precautions of a number of players not being fit or “match ready”, the game exploded into life the moment referee William Collum blew his whistle.
It was Sevilla who surprisingly struck first after Javier Mascherano brought down Reyes just outside the penalty area inside thirty seconds, giving Banega the opportunity to test Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen early on.
However, the Argentine’s free-kick was so good it beat the former Borussia Mönchengladbach shot stopper all ends up to give the Europa League champions the advantage inside just two minutes.
Fast forward just five minutes later; Barcelona drew level through their main man and magician Messi – as whatever Banega can do, Messi can do better.
The 28-year-old, who scored 58 goals in all competitions last season, curled in another delightful free-kick from 20 yards out into the far reaches of the top corner to kick-off his personal campaign with a goalscoring start.
Then; arguably the world’s best player in the world did it again, only this time from a further five yards out. Messi placed the ball down for the game’s third free-kick of the night before humiliating Sevilla ‘keeper Beto once again with a pinpoint set-piece into the top drawer to give Barca a 2-1 after 15 minutes.
After that free-kick frenzy; Messi’s strike partner Suarez had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside, but fortunately the former Liverpool forward dusted himself off nicely to assist his team’s third goal shortly before the break after picking out Rafinha at the far post, who couldn’t miss from a few yards out.
Enrique’s European champions went into half-time with a comfortable two-goal cushion, whilst smothering Sevilla with a heavy percentage of possession, and things were only about to get even better for the La Liga champions.
Defender Benoit Tremoulinas scuffed a terrible defensive pass straight into the path of Sergio Busquets, who threaded through Suarez one-on-one with Sevilla shot stopper Beto before coolly slotting away his first goal of the season.
At 4-1 down; Emery’s men looked dead and buried inside the Boris Paichadze Stadium, but a mixture of resurgence and tactical genius helped Sevilla complete a remarkable comeback.
Just five minutes after conceding their fourth goal of the night; Reyes slammed in Vitolo’s powerful cross past Ter Stegen from six yards, before Rafinha almost grabbed his second goal of the game, but his header thankfully crashed against the crossbar for Sevilla’s sake.
With just 20 minutes remaining in Georgia, Barcelona’s Jeremy Mathieu then clumsily brought down Vitolo in the penalty box to award Sevilla a spot-kick, which striker Gameiro took full advantage of to reduce his side’s deficit to just the one goal.
Having already sent on summer signing Konoplyanka, the Red and Whites manager Emery then replaced goalscorer Gameiro with Borussia Dortmund loanee Ciro Immobile, before both substitutes combined brilliantly to complete the unthinkable.
Immobile, who was anything but his name suggests, lost his marker Marc Bartra with a sharp turn of pace before teeing up Ukraine international Konoplyanka from close-range to tie the Super Cup spectacle at four goals apiece.
After a captivating 90 minutes in Tbilisi, where the game’s duration surpassed two o’clock in the morning local time, the two Spanish giants entered extra-time.
Goalscoring chances were reduced to a minimal as both team’s started showing signs of fatigue and pre-season symptoms ahead of this weekend’s opening round of fixtures in La Liga.
However; the script could not be written any sweeter as Pedro, in what could be last appearance for Barca, scored the winner in the 114th minute.
With reports before the game suggesting the Spanish winger had told the club he wants to leave the Nou Camp this summer, Pedro stuck to the occasion brilliantly to slam in Barcelona’s fifth goal of a fruitful night in Georgia.
After Sevilla’s Beto did well to parry two quick fire efforts from Messi, the Portuguese international’s second block fell straight into the path of the onrushing Spaniard who simply gobbled up the rebound and wheeled away in celebration.
Sevilla had two goal gaping chances at the death to take this extraordinary football match into a penalty shootout, but somehow Coke headed a close-range effort wide of Ter Stegen’s right-hand post before fellow defender Adil Rami blasted the ball over deep into injury-time.
Barcelona have now won the competition five times in nine appearances, with full-back Dani Alves lifting his fifth trophy to equal AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini’s record tally of five Super League victories.
Meanwhile Sevilla have now lost back-to-back Super Cup appearances after the Red and Whites fell down 2-0 to fellow Spanish rivals Real Madrid in last year’s final at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The result also means Sevilla haven’t defeated Barca in nearly five years – not since the club’s 3-0 Spanish Super Cup victory back on August 14, 2010.
Nonetheless; both La Liga outfits move onto this weekend’s opening round of domestic league fixtures in the Spanish top flight, with champions Barcelona kicking off at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, although Sevilla start at Malaga on Friday.
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi