The return of Lionel Messi from injury did not go as expected for Barcelona as the La Liga champions lost 4-3 to Real Betis at Camp Nou. The Blaugrana were second best the entire night and saw an extremely well-coached team dominate them for 90 minutes and get three giant points. This was a horrible night from start to finish. Just awful.
Barça made a very good start to the game, with high and intense pressing and some really good movement in attack, with Malcom especially very active and making plenty of runs in behind. But things turned quickly as soon as Betis managed to beat the press and find plenty of space inside the Barça defense.
Betis were pressing high themselves, but the Blaugrana could not deal with it and lost the ball multiple times in very dangerous positions, and the Seville side started to create chances. The goals came soon enough, with Júnior Firpo finishing a spectacular counter attack (which included a world-class pass from William Carvalho) before Joaquín scored an easy tap-in to make it 2-0 for Betis.
At halftime, Barça were putting on a horror show and deserved to be losing by at least two goals. There was a lot of work to do in the second half. A lot.
Ernesto Valverde made two quick second half changes in Arturo Vidal and Munir, and both made a good impact as the entire team looked a lot better with the ball. Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez were a lot more active than what we saw in the first half, and Pau López was forced into some big saves early on.
It seemed like time was starting to run out for Barça, but Cristian Tellow committed a dumb penalty on Jordi Alba and gifted Lionel Messi with an easy goal on his return to the team. Barça had 20 minutes to score two goals, and Valverde rolled one last dice with youngster Carles Aleñá replacing Sergio Busquets to increase the number of attacking players on the pitch.
Unfortunately there was no time for Aleñá to make an impact as Ter Stegen made a rare goalkeeping error trying to stop a shot from Giovani Lo Celso, and Betis once again had a two-goal lead. Barça got some hope with Arturo Vidal’s tap-in with 10 minutes to go, but that hope was gone when Ivan Rakitic got a second yellow and was sent off, and Sergio Canales made it 4-2 to seal his team’s victory. Barça still scored a late goal with Messi, but it was too late to give his side any real hope.
This was just bad. From start to finish. Betis were exceptional, Barça were really bad, and the result is more than fair. It happens, and we move on.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets (Aleñá), Arthur (Vidal); Messi, Suárez, Malcom (Munir)
Goals: Messi (68’, 90’+3), Vidal (79’)
Real Betis: Pau López; Tello, Mandi, Bartra, Sidnei, Júnior; Guardado, William, Lo Celso (Inui); Joaquín (Canales), Loren (Sergio León)
Goals: Júnior (20’), Joaquín (34’), Lo Celso (71’), Canales (83’)