Barcelona ran over Real Betis in the second half to secure a league-lead-extending win in a tough away game. After a scoreless first half, Barcelona stepped up in the second, scoring five goals in 30 minutes, starting with Ivan Rakitić just before the one-hour mark. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez went on to add a brace each to add to their impressive scoring records.
From the opening whistle at the rocking Benito Villamarin, the game was fast paced – as seemingly every game featuring Real Betis are. The hosts were looking to quickly shock the Catalans, but Andrés Guardado’s long range try just missed the target. In the 11th minute, a missed clearance led to Joaquin having a good look on goal, but his shot went sky-high.
Barcelona were largely held in check by Betis in the early going. Even though they saw plenty of the ball, Betis’ “peskiness” led to very short attacks, usually ending in easy turnovers. Betis were looking to press the ball-carrier high up the pitch which caused Barcelona plenty of problems, but slowly but surely, Barcelona were taking control of the game. Still, the former Real Madrid man in Betis’ goal, Antonio Adan, wasn’t called into action until the 24th minute. Messi found Jordi Alba in stunning fashion on the left wing. The left back went on to send a dangerous low cross into the middle, but Adan was just able to hold on.
Moments later, Roberto was left with a good look on goal, but his aim was poor and the chance went begging. Quickly thereafter the Catalans launched another good looking attack, this one ending with Rakitić aiming from distance, but Adan made the save. Barcelona continued to attack and had another chance to open the scoring in the 31st minute. Sergi Roberto, playing in midfield, led Barcelona on the counter and found Suarez to his left. After patiently waiting for support he found Messi in space, but the Argentine hit the outside part of the net.
Barcelona were attacking, but Betis remained dangerous, especially on the counter attack where the speed of their forwards came into play. And in the 40th minute that speed caused damage. While Betis didn’t score a goal, chasing the play, Thomas Vermaelen pulled up, and had to be taken off the pitch with an injury, adding yet another name to an already ridiculously long list of injured players. The Belgian was replaced by the only just returning Samuel Umtiti, whom Ernesto Valverde was hoping he wouldn’t need to use.
The two sides exchanged a couple half-chances before the halftime whistle, but the teams went scoreless into the break. While this highly anticipated match was widely expected to be a goal-fest, the first half offered very few clear cut chances and not a single goal.
There was little excitement at the start of the first half as neither side managed to create much. Barcelona often attacked with numbers, but Betis’ defense allowed very little space as the hosts brought everybody deep. Even though Betis were very strong defensively throughout the game, Barcelona made them pay for their first breakdown in the 59th minute. The Catalans were quick to move the ball from deep to midfield where Suarez spotted Rakitić streaking down the left wing. Through the legs of his marker, Suarez found his Croatian teammate who was going one-on-one with Adan. Faced with the opportunity to score his first goal of the season, Rakitić made no mistake, calmly scoring the opening goal.
Four minutes later Barcelona doubled their lead. Sergio Busquets forced a turnover deep in Betis teritory and in the blink of an eye passed forward to the wide open Messi who was played onside by Zou Feddal. One-on-one with Adan, Messi powered the ball past the goalkeeper to increase their lead. Before the restart of play, Barcelona made their second personnel change, with Paulinho replacing the yellow-carded Andre Gomes.
Even though they barely put a foot wrong for almost one hour, Betis were now down by two and in the 68th minute they would allow another. With Barcelona buzzing on the pitch and with Betis now allowing a bit more space at the back, the Catalans wasted no time in pilling on. Messi sent the ball to the right side to Rakitić who sent a lovely cross into the area where Suarez set himself for a powerful volley that again left Adan with no chance.
Betis’ ship was taking on water and sinking fast. While Barcelona were content to sit deep, the hosts made numerous turnovers, and Barcelona didn’t need a second invitation to start counter attacks. In the 80th minute, another errant Betis pass saw Suarez acrobatically first time the ball to Messi. The Argentine then made it look easy, skipping past a couple defenders as he made his was from right to left before simply slotting the ball out of Adan’s reach for his second of the game.
Quickly thereafter Barcelona had two more excellent chances, but on the first Gerard Deulofeu, who joined the game in Busquets’ place after Messi’ second goal, couldn’t connect with Roberto’s goalmouth header. Then, Messi slalomed his way deep into the area before finding Paulinho, but the Brazilian’s shot was saved by Adan. Betis’ spirit was broken and their confidence level wasn’t aided by Messi often routinely dribbling past three, four players. And Messi did that again in the 90th minute, taking on four defenders before passing to Suarez who unleashed a howitzer into the top corner for the Manita.
In the end, the goal-fest was the correct prediction, as Barcelona unleashed fire and fury on Betis in the second half for the high-scoring victory. Barcelona therefore extended their La Liga lead to eleven points. Next up for Barcelona is a crucial 2nd Leg against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey where Barcelona will look to overturn a one goal deficit from the first match.