Barcelona 4-0 Real Betis: Match Review
Barcelona hosted Real Betis late on Saturday night in their 32nd La Liga game of the season. The visitors were placed 6th on the table ahead of kickoff and one expected them to face a crunching challenge against the Verdiblancos.
Marc Andre ter Stegen started in goal with a central defensive pairing of Andreas Christensen and Ronald Araujo guarding his goal. Jules Kounde and Alejandro Balde completed the defensive line.
Sergio Busquets returned as the pivot on the night as both Pedri and Frenkie de Jong played as interiors. Robert Lewandowski was the central striker with Raphinha and Gavi completing the lineup.
It took Barcelona the better part of five minutes to settle into their element on the night, and by the tenth minute, it was all Barcelona.
The Verdiblancos were forced to make a defensive change after just 12 minutes as Edgar Gonzalez replaced the injured Luiz Felipe and the game went downhill for them from that point.
Barcelona took the deserved lead 14 minutes into the game through a spectacular Andreas Christensen header. After an unsuccessful corner sequence, Pedri set up Raphinha on the sidelines who sent a curling cross into the area. The Danish defender made no mistake with his towering finish.
Halfway through the first half, Real Betis’ early substitute Gonzalez saw two yellow cards in quick succession for rough challenges on Raphinha and Pedri and was given his marching orders. Just three minutes later, the Catalans capitalised on their numerical advantage.
A perfectly times low cross from Jules Kounde found Lewy in front of the goal. The Pole calmly slotted it into the bottom corner, giving Rui Silva no chance.
The Azulgranas were the dominant side in the first half by some distance as Real Betis even struggled to string a few passes together. With their best performers back fit, there was an element of fluidity in their possession that lacked over the past few months.
In the 39th minute, Raphinha netted Barcelona’s third of the night with composure and technique. Receiving Busquets’ through ball in the Betis box, the Brazilian chipped the ball into the goal. Though initially rules out for offside, the decision was quickly reversed.
Heading into the half-time break, Xavi Hernandez’s men virtually sealed the three points over Manuel Pellegrini’s side and boasted a commanding three-goal advantage.
Eight minutes into the restart, Pedri and Lewy combined well to create a goal-scoring chance in front of goal. However, the striker just could not find the finish. In the 57th minute, the Pole struck the post.
Andreas Christensen and Frenkie de Jong left the field for Marcos Alonso and Ansu Fati at the hour mark.
Barcelona’s threat continued after the changes as the Catalans riled up chance after chance with ease. The rhythm just seemed to click on the night for Xavi’s men who played a flawless brand of football
Ousmane Dembele and Franck Kessie came on for Raphinha and Pedri. The Frenchman made a long-awaited return after close to three months of injury.
Spanish legend Joaquin was forced to leave the field in the 80th minute after sustaining a knee injury and Pellegrini did not have enough substitutions in the bank to bring on a replacement. Real Betis were thus left with nine men for the final ten minutes.
Ansu Fati’s brilliant shot from a tight angle on the right side found its way into the back of the net in the 82nd minute after a deflection off Guido Rodriguez. The scoreline read 4-0, and deservedly so.
Lamine Yamal came on for Gavi for the closing minutes, and in the process, became Barcelona’s youngest ever debutant. Just minutes after coming on, the 15-year-old sensation had a spectacular chance to score but Silva’s fine save denied him.
With this win, Barcelona move to 79 points and retain their 11-point gap over Real Madrid with six games to go. The Blaugranas need just seven more points to mathematically seal the title.