Ivan Rakitic applauds the fans in his return to the Sánchez Pizjuán in Sevilla. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona came into the Sánchez Pizjuán in Sevilla on Saturday night with the honourable distinction as the last team to have won there, and they’ll head back home with no change to that status. The Catalans left the field on a sour note after failing to put away their Andalusian rivals despite going up 2–0 in the first half hour, eventually conceding the tying goal to Sevilla’s Kévin Gameiro with eight minutes left to play in a match that stood out for it’s breakneck pace and wild twists and turns that left many of those following it almost as exhausted as the players.

Leo Messi scored a sublime goal in the 13th minute and Neymar followed with some magic of his own in the 30th, but Sevilla showed their grit and soon answered as Éver Banega got one back before the half. Sevilla then poured every ounce of energy they had into an effective forward press after the intermission and were handsomely rewarded when José Antonio Reyes led sneaky counter attack out of midfield that ended with Gameiro beating Barça goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to draw Sevilla back even in the 82nd.

The draw leaves Barça just two points ahead of Real Madrid, who dispatched Eibar 3–0 at the Bernabéu earlier on Saturday.

Scorching pace

With Barça wearing their bright crimson with navy blue trim and Sevilla in their home whites with red trim the game got off to a blistering pace in the opening minutes, neither side wasting any time charging out onto the attack. Neymar and Iniesta both tried nearly identical long-range strikes that were foiled by Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico before Messi broke the ice with a quick shuffle step at the edge of the area and a hard left-footed shot that curled around Rico and inside the far post

The goal energised Barça, who then ran their possession up to 76% before Neymar made it 2–0. The Brazilian stood over a free kick with Messi, the two cohorts shielding the quick strategy session by covering their mouths with their hands, before Neymar stepped up and drilled the ball over the wall and into the upper left corner.

Opposite effect

But in a turn of events, Barça's second goal did the unthinkable. Instead of sinking Sevilla, it gave the hosts a burst of their own. After Luis Suárez and Carlos Bacca each missed great chances at opposite ends, Banega wound up and fired straight on from 24 metres. Bravo dove to his right and got his hand on it but the ball hit hard off the post and went in.

Andrés Iniesta and Suárez failed to deliver on back-to-back close-range chances to open the second half just as the game’s physical battles were warming up. Sevilla then made a tactical change and went with a full out press. It paid dividends for a while, forcing Barça into an unfamiliar defensive posture for stretches at a time.

The hosts made their first two changes around the 70th minute to keep fresh legs on the field and Barça answered by bringing in Xavi Hernández for Neymar to stabilise their midfield passing game. Sevilla then made their final change in the 75th, taking out Bacca and bringing in Gameiro, who delivered the game-tying goal only ten minutes later.