An emphatic final 10′ from Sevilla set the day right after a frustrating 85 minutes found them down 2-0 at one point and generally failing to find a way through, around, or over a professional Depor side. Two goals, Vitolo at 86′ and Mercado at 92′, cemented Sevilla in the Champions League places. You wonder what kind of character this team has at some moments of dull possession with few chances, but then we hit 5 of our 7 shots on goal in the final 10′ and you get a better idea of how strong this team’s sense of self is.
The match started as poorly as possible for Sevilla and for Ganso, who slipped in possession giving Depor a running cross to Babel, whose backpedaling created enough space for him to send a bounding header inside the post as the clock ticked 1:00. Rico could not reach-o. The next 25 minutes were all Sevilla (with at least 75% of the ball) and culminated in a deft taconazo from The Goose to send Sarabia clear on goal, only to have Tyton’s pesky shoulder get in his way. It was the first clear breakthrough behind the Depor defense.
When I say Depor played a “professional” game, I mean they got an extremely early lead and proceeded to push all their chips in on a 1-0 victory. They stacked 7 players around the edge of the box and left us to prod for weaknesses. Given that we started without arguably our three best playmakers (Vitolo, El Mudo, Nasri), it was the wrong match to give up a first minute goal. That being said, Ganso found chances to make an impact (that went unrewarded), Sarabia delivered dangerous free kicks into the area, and Kranevitter held the space well behind Nzonzi’s attacking forays. These three will be crucial to our three-front campaign later in the season, so it was great to have them in the position of putting us a few inches here and there away from being a couple goals up. Kranevitter controlled the ball well, won some decisive battles, and recovered the ball in some key moments for the team. He should continue to improve especially when balanced against Nzonzi’s all-world control and calm.
Speaking of Nzonzi, he did have some poor moments today. Two turnovers late in the first half were uncharacteristic of the player who might be our best of the season so far. The second of these misplaced passes wound up at the boots of Andone, who nutmegged Pareja and ghosted between Carriço and Kranevitter before dinking it over Rico. It was a terrific run by Andone and a cute finish, too. I won’t linger too much on the defending there, because I think anything more would have committed a penalty, and particularly because Nzonzi ran down and scored while Depor were still congratulating themselves. To see a guy who could have been hanging his head at 43′ instead of scoring shows some more of that team character we noticed all match long. Nzonzi’s (non)reaction to his goal signaled the team’s determination to show their true quality.
Vitolo’s entrance into the game for Carriço pushed Kranevitter into the back line after half. The shape held and Vitolo shined. It’s staggering to see how much one player can revolutionize the flow of a match, and Vitolo’s performance stands as a prime example to this. All of a sudden we were finding space on the left as defenders began ceding extra millimeters to one of the most in-form players in Europe. Escudero also benefitted from this, finding dangerous runs underneath the defense that Vitolo found to play him into the box time after time. One of the things I love about Vitolo’s play is the particular way he uses the end line to frame his runs. He has a tremendous ability to wait until the last instant, when the defender has bit on an earlier deke, to pass the ball or touch it forward along the line. He uses it like an indoor player uses the wall-instead of limiting his possibilities, it adds to them. Example:
As the anxiety ratcheted up in the 85th minute, the team worked an astounding series that concluded with Vitolo finding himself alone at the back post for 2-2 at 86:30. This was legitimately an entire minute of possession inside their box as well as an absolutely transfixing sequence of plays with failed clearances, scraps for possession, through balls, and crosses agonizingly out of reach that eventually drew deep, red blood.
Mercado’s unequivocal finish on the back post after a deflected corner sealed the 2-3 victory at 93′. I mentioned it earlier, but it’s hard to overstate that we had 7 shots on goal today and five of them came after the 85th minute. It was relentless, withering, and finally Depor did both relent and wither. Collapse for Depor; euphoria for Sevilla. Get crazy, everybody! Take off your shirt halfway or something!
Back to that character piece, because let’s live there a little longer: there have been 25 goals scored after the 85th minute in La Liga this season, and Sevilla claim six of them (via @TimDCollins). That’s 1/4! And two times we have scored twice after the 85th to win. Two times! These late goals have won us 10 points; without them we would be tied with Betis in 13th place with 14 points. I don’t recall many if any times Emery’s teams found a way to dig out late points like this. It speaks to Sampaoli’s insistence in dominating, controlling, and imposing our will on other teams that they so frequently atrophy to the point of conceding in the last minutes of a match. I hope we can keep it up, but I think we would all just as equally appreciate having not needed to be in that position. The reality is that we play a style of football that puts us on the forward foot where we will most likely score more goals while also making it more probable that we concede them, too.
We expected a wild, unpredictable season and so far our hopes have been met with furious fucking grit by a Sevilla team solidifying its identity and resolve weekly. Get ready, Juve!