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Barcelona keep title hopes alive with 2-0 win over Sevilla

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Madrid, Feb 28 (IANS) FC Barcelona kept their La Liga title hopes alive and probably ended Sevilla’s with a 2-0 win in the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi gave Barca a win in the ground where they lost 2-0 in the Copa del Rey 17 days ago and just four days before the teams meet again in the Camp Nou.

Barca suffered a nervous wait before kick-off when goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen hurt his thumb in the warm-up and had to retire to the dressing room, and it was not until he came out with the rest of his team-mates that his presence was confirmed, Xinhua news reports.

Meanwhile, Barca boss Ronaldo Koeman sprang a surprise in his line-up with Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba playing as wing-backs in front of three central defenders on Saturday.

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The first half saw both teams play a tactical game with Sevilla willing to sit deep and allow Barca possession and they defended with few problems until the 29th minute when Leo threaded the ball through for Dembele to run clear and thread the ball past Bono in the Sevilla goal.

Even though Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui made three changes at halftime, with Suso and Youssef En Nesyri among the players to come on, it wasn’t until the 52nd minute that his side managed a shot on target and that was easily dealt with by Ter Stegen.

Moments later Dest thumped a shot against the Sevilla post before Dembele set up Messi only for the Argentinean to fire over.

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Ronald Araujo replaced Gerard Pique who appeared to suffer problems with his knee in the first half, while Pedri also went off injured and was replaced by another teenager, Ilaix Moriba as Sevilla began slowly to pin Barca back.

En Nesyri had a goal ruled out for offside before Araujo’s return from injury lasted just 18 minutes but Messi assured the three points for Barca five minutes from time after linking with Moriba.

Although Bono saved Messi’s first chance, the Argentinean was able to follow up and sidefoot the ball into the net to put Barca momentarily into second while ending Sevilla’s run of six consecutive wins.

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–IANS

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