FC Barcelona kept pace in the race for the La Liga title as El Blaugrana defeated Real Betis 3-1 at the Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
Lionel Messi got the scoring started in the 15th minute as Alexis Sanchez made some nice moves inside the box, and was taken down for the PK. Messi stepped up and smoothly put it past former Real Madrid goalkeeper and current Betis keeper Antonio Adan for the 1-0 lead. In the second half, Betis were much better, but an own goal by Figueras in the 68th minute gave Barça a 2-0 lead. Ruben Castro quickly brought Betis back into the game just a minute later as his goal made it 2-1. A second penalty was called in favor of Barcelona in the 86th minute via a handball call. Messi's penalty was stopped by Adan, however, Messi's rebound shot was partially blocked by Adan but rolled in for Leo's brace and a 3-1 scoreline. Barcelona looked just "average" on the night. The score says 3-1, but that's a deceiving scoreline as Barcelona we good in the first half, but poor in the second half.
Let's get to the Best, Worst, and What We Learned from this game.
The Best: Alexis, Marc Bartra, Sergio Busquets.
Alexis Sanchez had a great game, overall. His speed and hustle was on point, especially in the first half. His play in the 14th minute which ended up in getting the penalty called was brilliant. It's those kinds of plays that Barcelona is in need of: dynamic, creative plays that lead to shot/goal opportunities. Marc Bartra had himself a lovely game. The kid looked strong, nearly got a goal via a corner kick header, and was the best defender on the day. Sergio Busquets had a good game as well, as his dribbling, passes, and even his defensive plays were solid against Betis.
The Worst: That "La Masia no es toca" banner/pancarta at the Camp Nou at the beginning of the game
I'm sorry, but that "La Masia no es toca" (Don't touch La Masia) was weak. It looked like it was made at a copy store down the street, but most importantly, it felt like it was FCB board propaganda and it makes it seems like no one at FCB did anything wrong. Sorry, but FIFA didn't just wake up and do decide to do this without evidence that someone or some people at FCB were not abiding by rules. Yes, the punishment is too severe and there are many teams that do the same. I won't get started on this whole FCB board/FIFA transfer ban issue because I could go on for hours. Journalist Rafael Hernandez said it best on Twitter:
"Club (FCB and their banner) is suggesting FIFA has something against La Masia, (which is) untrue.
I have a problem with the Barcelona board; it starts and ends there. Players, all employees and fans have my absolute respect and support."
What We Learned: Barcelona cannot shake off this "can't finish a team off" spell that happens to them at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona were good in the first half, but were very poor in the second half. They lacked energy, interest, and creativity. Barcelona had luck on their side with the own goal and the second PK called. Pedro was off; so was Xavi. Andres Iniesta had an average game. Messi got the goals, but lacked a bit of energy. Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano were not at their best either. And it doesn't end with the players. I'm sorry, but Tata Martino continues to make substitutions a bit too late in games, and for me, I don't think it's very wise. That's just my opinion.
If Betis had been just a bit sharper, perhaps we'd be talking about a draw, at minimum.
Worst part: this is not the first time that this "can't finish off a team at home/leave the opponent within a goal" type of game has occurred this season.
Step it up, FCB.
What's Next?: Wednesday at Atletico Madrid in CL quarterfinals, 2nd leg
Barcelona will head to Madrid, looking to eliminate Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal matchup. A win or a 2-2+above draw sees Barça moving on to the semifinals. Expect a more attacking lineup and game plan.
Xoel's Final Word
FC Barcelona kept pace in the race for the Liga title with a 3-1 win against Real Betis on Saturday evening. Now, the focus moves to the Champions League and Atletico Madrid.
Some FCB players have said that every game from now until the end of the season is "like a final." On Wednesday, Barcelona will have another "final" at the Vicente Calderon.
Time to rise.
Time to attack.
Xoel, The Voice of Culés