No Messi? No Suárez? No Dembélé? No Coutinho? No Neymar? No. Freaking. Problem. Barcelona made a statement of strength thanks to a spectacular 5-2 victory over Real Betis at Camp Nou on Sunday, Barça’s first La Liga win of the season. The Blaugrana played well throughout the match and responded to going behind early with a brand of football that was suffocating and scintilating at times, and Antoine Griezmann showed the world — and especially Barça’s fans and players — that he is ready to be really good for this team.
Barça made a strong start to the game, with quick passing and smart movement in the final third that created many good chances, but the finishing was missing without Messi and Suárez inside the box. Just as Barça looked close to a goal they were exposed after a bad pass in midfield, and Nabil Fekir scored his first goal for Betis and gave the visitors the lead against the run of play.
The goal did unsettle Barça for a few minutes and they struggled in the final third, but the final 20 minutes saw a really strong response from the Blaugrana who created big chances and would have equalized through Rafinha if Sidnei didn’t make a vital deflection just five yards from goal to send the ball away for a corner.
The pressure was too much, however, and Barça got a deserved equalizer four minutes from the whistle: Sergi Roberto played a brilliant cross into the box, and Griezmann threw himself into the ball and managed to make contact and send it past Dani Martín and into the back of the net for the Frenchman’s first goal for Barça.
At halftime, considering all the injuries and the opponent, this was a very good performance from Barça. They still needed to find a winner, though.
There was a hunger and an intensity about Barça to start the second half: they were running like madmen and pressing all over the pitch, and their hard work quickly turned the game from tough to amazing: in a space of 10 minutes, Griezmann (with a beautiful curler), Carles Pérez (after a great piece of high pressing) and Jordi Alba (after more high pressing) scored three goals and made the score 4-1 to clinch the victory with a half-hour to go.
Barça slowed down after a crazy 15 minutes to start the second half, but they still wanted to score more goals and they got it: a beautiful team move that started with a goal-kick ended with a beautiful through ball from Pérez, a great assist from Griezmann and a fantastic finish by Arturo Vidal to make it five. There was consolation for Betis thanks to an amazing strike by Loren Morón, which made the score 5-2, but the game was well over.
The final whistle eventually came to end an incredible night for Barça. This wasn’t perfect, and the defense is still a question mark, but the attacking display without the two best goal-scorers on the team was just beautiful to watch. Wow. Just wow.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Roberto, Busquets (Vidal 74’), De Jong; Pérez (Ansu Fati 78’), Griezmann, Rafinha (Firpo 81’)
Goals: Griezmann (41’, 50’), Pérez (56’), Alba (60’), Vidal (77’)
Real Betis: Martín; Emerson, Bartra, Sidnei, Pedraza; Canales (Lainez 75’), William, Guardado (Joaquín 61’), Tello (Kaptoum 61’); Fekir, Loren
Goals: Fekir (15’), Loren (79’)