Ousmane Dembele, Marc-Andre ter Stegen lead Barcelona to Spanish Super Cup glory
Barcelona began the new season with a trophy by lifting the Spanish Super Cup for a 13th time after a hard-fought win against Sevilla in Tangier, Morocco. Barcelona needed to come back from conceding early but snatched a 2-1 win, thanks to a thumping strike from Ousmane Dembele and an injury-time penalty save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The Catalans were given a much tougher time from the Andalusians than in the Copa del Rey final and met a narrow, determined team who have quickly been whipped into shape by new coach Pablo Machin and who went ahead early on through Pablo Sarabia after a barnstorming run by Colombian forward Luis Muriel.
Gerard Pique bundled home a Lionel Messi free kick that had come off the post to level before half-time, and Barca just about deserved to win the game following a far improved second-half display, even though they relied on ter Stegen to thwart Wissam Ben Yedder from the spot to avert extra time.
It can never be a bad thing to start the season with a trophy, and the fact that Barca came through such a testing game with the goods and after going behind says a lot about their mentality and bodes well for the coming campaign.
New boy Arthur's timid display indicates he might need a little more time to adapt to the pace of Spanish football, while Luis Suarez looked rusty. Barca also resembled a thoroughly ordinary team until Ivan Rakitic came on.
Manager rating (out of 10)
7 -- Ernesto Valverde took a gamble by starting with Arthur and Rafinha and quickly realized his error by withdrawing both midfielders so soon for the ever-reliable Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho, and Barca's attacking threat improved drastically.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 -- Made an outstanding low save to deny Sarabia late in the first half and guessed correctly to foil Ben Yedder's penalty, which was harshly given against the German after Aleix Vidal crashed into him.
DF Nelson Semedo, 5 -- The Portuguese started due to the suspension of Sergi Roberto and had little joy in the first half, but he became more effective after the break as he learned how to get past Sevilla's double force field of Sergio Escudero and Sergi Gomez on the left flank.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- Assured in possession and showcased his talent as a poacher to pounce on the loose ball and strike the equalizer, although he was powerless to stop Luis Muriel steamrolling his way into the area to provide the pass for Sarabia to strike first.
DF Clement Lenglet, 5 -- Looked comfortable bringing the ball out but was less assured when on the back foot and was nutmegged by Muriel in the buildup to Sevilla's goal.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 -- The Spain left-back was practically Barca's only attacking outlet for most of the first half.
MF Rafinha, 5 -- Worked hard in midfield but had little impact going forward and was the first player to be substituted.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Had a lot of work to do before the interval but improved after it once Rakitic came on the pitch to share the defensive duties and the team were able to attack with more freedom.
MF Arthur, 5 -- Looked shy on his competitive debut, rarely playing ambitious passes, leading to the team struggling to negotiate their way through a crowded Sevilla midfield. Was removed for Coutinho early in the second half.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 8 -- The electric French winger always looked Barca's most dangerous player, as Messi was playing so deep, and he was unlucky not to score before he snatched the winner with an unstoppable shot off the bar that took everyone by surprise.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- Looked to influence play from deep and as a result was not able to cause as much havoc as usual. Still played a decisive role, forcing the equalizer with his arrowed free kick off the post that Pique turned in and arming Dembele and Suarez more in the second half.
FW Luis Suarez, 5 -- The Uruguayan seemed to lack power and pace and was ineffectual for most of the game.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- Replaced Rafinha right at the start of the second half and instantly gave Barca more protection in midfield, as well as more dynamism.
MF Philippe Coutinho, 6 -- Gave the team more imagination in midfield after coming on for compatriot Arthur.
MF Arturo Vidal, N/R -- Came on for match-winner Dembele in the 86th minute to make his debut but had no time to have any impact.
Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.