Barcelona are now 10 points clear of Atlético Madrid with just 10 games left in the La Liga season thanks to a spectacular 4-1 win over Real Betis on Sunday at the Benito Villamarín. The Blaugrana had a great gameplan against one of the best offensive teams in the league and executed it to perfection, while Lionel Messi had another GOAT performance with a hat-trick that included one of his best goals of the season.
With a 4-4-2 diamond designed to control possession and slow Betis down, Barça had a strong start to the game as the hosts were unable to either keep the ball or press high up the pitch in the first 15 minutes. Arthur was awesome during that period, dictating the tempo of the game and controlling the midfield all by himself. He also won a free-kick at the edge of the box, which Lionel Messi fired into the top corner to give Barça the lead with an incredible goal.
It took Betis a while to recover from Barça’s amazing start, but the Verdiblancos began to gain more possession and attack with more players, which forced the Blaugrana to defend a lot deeper. The home team started to create chance after chance, with Jesé coming really close in a couple of occasions, and Betis’ high pressing started to affect Barça’s build-up.
Barça’s antidote for the press? Long, diagonal passes from Ter Stegen to Jordi Alba, who constantly found himself in space and was smart about keeping the ball to give the rest of the team time to move up the pitch, and after three or four of those long balls the Blaugrana had established dominance again. They also pressed high themselves, and that led to a great Luis Suárez assist and a second Messi goal seconds before the end of the half.
At halftime, Barça were playing awesome football and had a very big lead. They just needed to keep up the intensity and stay solid without the ball to confirm the win.
The second half started as expected, with Betis throwing everyone forward trying to get an early goal while Barça just waited for the right opportunity to counter attack. Luis Suárez found himself in front of goal twice in the first 15 minutes, all alone in front of the keeper, and he somehow missed. Then the Uruguayan went on an unbelievable run through the entire Betis defense and scored an incredible goal to make it 3-0 for Barça.
Suárez’s goal was the dagger in the hearts of the entire Betis team and fans, and they just had no idea what to do to create chances after that. Barça were more than happy with the three-goal lead and just focused on keeping the ball and not suffering when they didn’t have it. Unfortunately they did concede a goal when the ball bounced around in the box and Loren Morón scored a really nice goal to make it 3-1.
Before Betis could have any hopes of coming back, Lionel Messi decided to score his most amazing goal of the season by chipping the goalkeeper from the edge of the box. I can’t describe the goal. Just go watch it.
The final whistle came to end another truly impressive performance from the leaders, and the title is now just 10 games away.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets; Rakitic, Arthur (Semedo), Vidal; Messi, Suárez
Goals: Messi (18’, 45’+1, 85’), Suárez (63’)
Real Betis: Pau López; Mandi, Bartra, Sidnei; Carvalho (Loren); Joaquín (Emerson), Canales, Guardado, Tello; Lo Celso (Lainez), Jesé
Goal: Loren (82’)