SEVILLE (Spain): Barcelona forwards Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi fired the Catalans to a confidence-boosting 2-0 win at in-form Sevilla on Saturday to keep the pressure on La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.
Dembele latched on to a through ball from Messi and knocked it through the legs of Sevilla keeper Bono to give Barca a deserved lead in the 29th minute after dominating the first half and barely giving their hosts a hint of a chance.
Sevilla improved after the break but Barca continued to have the edge and found a second goal five minutes from time when Messi played a one-two with teenage midfielder Ilaix Moriba and netted with a scrappy finish after having his first effort saved by Bono.
The result ended a six-game winning streak in the league for Sevilla, who remained fourth in the standings on 48 points, while Barca climbed above Real Madrid into second place with 53 points, two behind Atletico but having played two more games.
Sevilla can avenge the defeat on Wednesday when they head to the Camp Nou for a Copa del Rey semi-final second leg with a 2-0 lead in the tie.
Barca are likely to be without defender Ronald Araujo for the second leg after he made his return from injury by coming off the bench to replace a struggling Gerard Pique but had to be taken off with a suspected ankle problem 15 minutes later.
Visiting coach Ronald Koeman got his tactics spot on against Julen Lopetegui’s side, lining up with a 3-5-2 formation he has used on special occasions this season.
The shape gave Barca extra width but above all helped limit Sevilla’s ability to counter-attack and they barely managed to trouble keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Sergio Busquets and Pedri dominated in midfield for Barca while Dembele used his electric pace to get in behind Sevilla’s defence and cause havoc.
The French forward is in the form of his life and after breaking the deadlock with a confident finish he nearly set up a second goal when he danced through Sevilla’s defence to tee up Messi, who uncharacteristically skied his effort.
Barca’s captain made amends for the miss, however, scoring his 19th La Liga goal this season and a 30th league goal against Sevilla.