Barcelona were 32 minutes from kissing their bid for an unbeaten season goodbye and suffering their first defeat of the La Liga season on Saturday, to sixth-place Sevilla. Ernesto Valverde brought Lionel Messi, who was unavailable to start due to a hamstring injury, off the bench.
Messi had been on the field for a half-hour, yet Barca were now fewer than five minutes from falling short of etching their names in the history books. Then, in a way that seemed all too perfect to be real — if it were any team other than Barca — it happened.
They didn’t draw the game so much as they refused to lose.
Luis Suarez slammed home from close range to make it 2-1 in the 88th minute, and Messi curled an inch-perfect shot through traffic and off the outstretched hands of Sergio Rico.
The final major hurdle which Barca must clear will arrive in just over a month’s time, when Real Madrid visit the Camp Nou, with little to play for (they trail by 13 points in the title “race,” which could very well be officially over by then) beyond breaking up an otherwise flawless season.