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La Liga: Real Betis 2-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Curiously enough, the last time Busi scored was also in a 2-2 draw
Curiously enough, the last time Busi scored was also in a 2-2 draw

FC Barcelona couldn’t send Pep Guardiola out with a win in his final league match in charge of the club as Real Betis earned a 2-2 draw with the Catalans. Sergio Busquets put the Blaugrana ahead with a brilliant header, but Betis fought back in the second half after the sending off of Dani Alves with a brace from Ruben Castro looking to have sealed an unlikely comeback for the hosts. However, Seydou Keita equalised in injury time with a decent header meaning that Pep at least went out of his final La Liga match undefeated.

Real Betis





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Pep Guardiola made a few changes for his final league match in charge of the Blaugrana, with Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Xavi and Ibrahim Afellay all given starts as Pep looked to bow out with a win. Unsurprisingly Lionel Messi created the first chance of the match with a superb through ball for Ibrahim Afellay, but the Dutchman couldn’t lift the ball over Casto to open the scoring. However, Barcelona would take the lead just seconds later with Xavi delivering the corner for the darting run of Sergio Busquets who caressed the ball into the far corner of the net with a delightful flick-on at the near post. It was his first league goal of the season, but better late than never!

In fact, Xavi’s prowess in a dead ball situation nearly added a second for Barcelona soon after as the experienced midfielder curled a free-kick just wide from the best part of 30 yards after Ibrahim Afellay had been fouled. In truth, Barcelona were edging the game possession-wise, and potentially winning the territorial battle, but they were not creating an awful lot of chances either. The game certainly had an end of season feel about it.

Adriano brought some spark to the proceedings with a powerful strike from just outside the area forcing a spectacular save from Casto in the Betis goal, but Lionel Messi was fairly quiet, at least by his mesmeric standards. The Argentine did make one exceptional run in the 36th, dribbling with pace past one or two challenges with aid from Afellay’s decoy run, but his shot was blocked by Paulao who was looking pretty colossal at the back. Xavi’s free-kick could have lead to another goal, but unfortunately his driven cross wasn’t directed goal-wards by any of the Barca players. At half-time in Pep Guardiola’s final league match in charge, it was 1-0 Barcelona and staggeringly Messi hadn’t scored yet.

There were no changes in personnel at the break, although Betis came out with a far better attitude to the first half. They were attacking well, harrying the Blaugrana players with the volatile crowd adding to the excitement. After a few hectic moments in the area, Betis found themselves with a man advantage as Dani Alves lunged in on Pereira to receive a second yellow card. It was a stupid challenge, and probably deserving of a straight-red, let alone a second yellow. In response Pep Guardiola replaced the lively Ibrahim Afellay with Martin Montoya as Barca moved to a 4-3-2.

Despite that man disadvantage, Barcelona were able to compete toe-to-toe with Betis for 10-15 minutes, but the home side pressed forward in search of their equaliser. Just like back in the first match between the teams this season, the introduction of Roque Santa Cruz changed the game. Whether he was involving himself in the build-up, or merely drawing the attention of the Barcelona defenders, it helped drag his team back into the match. Not quite as much as Ruben Castro though.

For the equaliser, Castro streaked clear of the defense after a straight-forward ball through the middle and chipped the on-rushing Victor Valdes, before adding a second minutes later with a composed finish into the bottom corner. At half-time Barcelona looked set to pick up a comfortable if unconvincing win, but after a few manic minutes in the second half, they found themselves 2-1 down. Alves’ sending off had clearly left the team in the lurch.

Andres Iniesta replaced Xavi with around ten minutes to go as the Blaugrana looked to salvage a point from proceedings. They looked to have fallen just short as Lionel Messi hit the post with a cracking free-kick, but Seydou Keita rose highest in injury-time to head in a dramatic equaliser after Martin Montoya’s cross. Maybe it wasn’t deserved, but I’m sure Pep would take it. Next up is the final game of the season: the Copa del Rey final with Athletic Bilbao.

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