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Barça digs deep for Sevilla win

League leader comes from two goals down to snatch another three points

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Cesc Fàbregas (r) is congratulated by team captain Xavi after pulling one back for Barça at Sevilla. AP

Barcelona maintained its perfect start to the season on Saturday night in Seville, despite the best efforts of the home side to relieve the league leader of its first points of the season.

Míchel's well-drilled team had conceded just twice in five games and Barça was always going to struggle to break down Sevilla's defensive wall in front of a baying local crowd. There is little that Leo Messi and company enjoy less than the close attention of opposition defenders, and the longer a game goes with the Argentinean successfully frustrated, the greater the chances become of getting something out of it.

Sevilla might have been forgiven for thinking it had done enough to ensure at least a point when Álvaro Negredo ran onto a through ball, brushed off Alex Song and lifted the ball over Víctor Valdés to double his side's advantage after the break. Piotr Trochowski has given Sevilla the lead in the first half, gratefully thrashing home an unfortunate deflection off Javier Mascherano that landed invitingly on the German's left boot.

But then the pendulum swung back toward Barça, first through a well-taken Cesc Fàbregas goal. The former Arsenal captain was the driving force behind his side's resurgence in the final 40 minutes, a trait learned in the hurly-burly world of the Premier League, where spirited comebacks are weekly fare. Less palatable was Fàbregas' reaction to the slightest brush of his face on the part of Gary Medel: a falling leaf would have had the same impact on Fàbregas' precious visage, but the Barça player reacted as most do, feigning his way to a 10-man opposition.

The equalizer came with a couple of minutes on the clock. Again Fàbregas was the architect, but to the Sánchez Pizjuán's audible derision more than a helping hand was lent by Thiago. Nonetheless, the goal stood and Sevilla, now reeling from Barça's assault and the referee's leniency, stood mesmerized as Messi and David Villa swapped neat passes in the box before the latter, a late substitute, confidently slotted home at the death to seal a 2-3 win.

Málaga, at home to Real Betis, encountered no such resistance in chalking up an emphatic victory. The game was effectively up for Betis after just 10 minutes when keeper Casto was given his marching orders for dangerous play. Adrián San Miguel stepped into the breach in his debut first-team appearance, and his first act was to pluck the ball from his net after Betis old boy Joaquín smashed the resulting penalty home. Adrián would repeat the inglorious task a further three times as Málaga swaggered to a 4-0 win to move into second.

Other results: Real Sociedad 2-0 Athletic; Granada 2-1 Celta; Valencia 2-0 Zaragoza; Valladolid 6-1 Rayo; Osasuna 4-0 Levante.