BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — So long the scourge of Barcelona, Sergio Ramos unwittingly came to its aid on Friday.
The former Real Madrid defender scored an own goal that handed Barcelona a 1-0 win over Sevilla and sent the Catalan club back to the top of the Spanish league.
The veteran center back inadvertently turned in a headed pass by Lamine Yamal into Sevilla’s goal in the 76th minute.
The 37-year-old Ramos returned to Sevilla, his boyhood club, this month after leaving Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona’s fans jeered Ramos early in the game because of his past stint with Madrid, where he played 45 “clasico” games against the Catalan club between 2005-21.
After an evenly matched first half, Barcelona was pressing Sevilla into its box when the 16-year-old Lamal helped produce the breakthrough. Yamal was trying to head a lobbed pass by substitute Ferran Torres to teammate Fermin López when it hit Ramos and deflected into the net.
During the game, a video clip was played on Spanish news websites from a Barcelona vs. Madrid game in 2016 when Ramos was accompanied onto the field by Yamal when he was a young boy.
“Circumstance of life,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said about Yamal and Ramos now playing against one another.
“Who would have predicted that Yamal would be playing him at age 16, and it is to Sergio’s credit that he is still playing at this level,” said Xavi, who was Ramos’ rival at Barcelona and his teammate on the Spain team that won the 2010 World Cup. “Sergio is a great player and he had a played a great game, but he was just unlucky.”
This month, Yamal became the youngest player to score in a European Championship qualifier and also became the youngest player to appear for Spain.
The victory lifted Barcelona back on top of the league table. Barcelona leads Girona by one point and Madrid by two before they play one another on Saturday.
Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic drew a leaping save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the 16th minute. The visitors went closer to scoring in the 30th, but Gavi Páez blocked the goal-bound shot by Lucas Ocampos.
“This Barcelona has lots of talented players, and we just weren’t able to defend them until the very end,” said Rakitic, whose Sevilla was left in 12th place. “We have lots of little things to improve so that these details that decide matches can go our way.”
Barcelona’s best chance in the first half came in the 20th when João Félix hit the woodwork after being set up by João Cancelo.
Barcelona lost Brazil forward Raphinha to an apparent leg injury in the first half. Fermin replaced him and impressed once again after he scored his first goal against Mallorca in a 2-2 draw midweek.
Prior the match, the executives of the two clubs clashed over the most recent developments in the legal investigation into the payment of millions of dollars by Barcelona to a former vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee between 2001-18.
On Thursday, the judge investigating the payments said there were indications that Barcelona may have attempted to bribe the former official, who was involved in administering the referees. It was the latest blow to Barcelona’s reputation after state prosecutors made their initial accusations against the club and its former executives in March.
Sevilla issued a statement hours before Friday’s game “expressing its complete indignation over the practices of Barcelona’s ex-executives.”
As a consequence, its representatives skipped the pre-game lunch with their Barcelona counterparts and refused to sit in the dignitaries’ section at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium.
Barcelona hit back with a statement saying that it was severing official relations with Sevilla.
“The (case) cannot serve as an excuse for the steps (Sevilla has taken) since the case is still in the initial steps of its investigative phase,” said Barcelona, which has repeatedly claimed that the monies paid to the refereeing official were for reports on referee’s tendencies, not to influence their decisions.