RCD Espanyol 3-1 Sevilla FC
RDC Espanyol: López; Navarro, López, Reyes, Aarón; Fuego, Jurado; Hernán, Reyes, Piatti; Moreno. (4-2-3-1)
Sevilla FC: Rico; Mariano, Pareja, Rami, Escudero; Sarabia, N’Zonzi, Nasri, Vázquez; Jovetić, Ben Yedder. (4-4-2)
Nowadays, Sevilla FC is arguably the team in best shape in terms of deploying a consistent game plan. It is very clear for anyone who follows La Liga very closely to know how Sevilla play and what they want to offer to the fans. This is generally entertainment — it does not matter the outcome of the game. They got to Barcelona to keep pushing in their historic season in the league. Its next rival: RCD Espanyol. A middle-of-the-table team that is hoping to fight for Europa League places.
Sevilla got into the pitch with a 4-4-2 scheme that then changed because of an early red card on Nicolás Pareja. With less than five minutes into the game, José Manuel Jurado broke the Sevilla’s second line with a long pass to Pablo Piatti, who managed the way to drive the ball long enough to get fouled inside the box. A suspension and a penalty against Sevilla. José Antonio Reyes did not hesitate to score against his former team to put Espanyol on top in the scoreboard.
This suspension forced Sevilla to substitute Wissam Ben Yedder for Clement Lenglet. Sevilla did not change their tactical proposal even tough they had 10 men on the pitch and no natural striker on the pitch. They still had the initiative of being offensive and doing whatever it cost to dominate their rivals.
They key man for Sevilla throughout the entire game was Steven N’Zonzi. The French man was the nucleus of every offensive transition for his team. Every time he had the ball on his feet, he acted like a chess player by establishing the rhythm, dragging rivals, reading the body movement of his teammates, and putting precision and sense to his passes.
In fact, it took less than 20 minutes for Sevilla to get on the board. A beautiful collective play between N’Zonzi, Franco Vázquez, Samir Nasri and Stevan Jovetić tied the game. Vázquez sent a smooth through-pass between the Espanyol backline for Nasri, who stablished the perfect timing to made the cut inside the box. Nasri received the ball and sent a short assist to Jovetić who only had to make a one-touch shot.
From that point on, Sevilla was in charge of the game. Their midfielders pulled the strings of the midfield with triangle combinations, through passes, high-pressure, and positional defense.
Espanyol could find the way to punch back and finish the first half on top of the scoreboard through a set piece. David López sent a beautiful long assist to Marc Navarro, who beat up the defenders while connecting a header on the jump.
After Navarro’s goal, Sevilla struggled to take back the control of the game. Espanyol established a compact block on defense that stopped every passing lane for N’Zonzi and the rest of Sevilla midfielders. This tactical movement affected the game of Sevilla forwards. They found themselves trapped and could not find open spaces to create passing options.
In the 71st minute, Gerard Moreno completed his ferocious game with a header assisted by Navarro. Moreno was amazing when making cuts through the spaces between defenders and fighting for long passes on the jumps.
Like Barcelona, Sevilla allowed Real Madrid to extend their lead in the league table thanks to this lost against Espanyol. Any of those three teams still have chances of either winning or losing the league. It is still early in the season to make any kind of conclusions. One thing that is certain is that Sevilla is the better team among those three mentioned before. They might not have the same individual talent, but they are very clear on their game philosophy.