For the first time in TWO MONTHS AND EIGHTEEN DAYS Barcelona have won a road game in La Liga and will finish the weekend three points behinds leaders Real Madrid thanks to a very tough 3-2 victory over Real Betis at the Benito Villamarín in a wild match on Sunday night. Barça fell behind twice but found a way to come back in the second half, and a hat-trick of assists from Lionel Messi led the champions to a crucial triumph away from home.
Barça started the game with a diamond in midfield to dominate possession and neutralize a Betis team that usually starts fast at home, but a handball by Clément Lenglet inside the box gave the home side a chance to take the lead inside five minutes.
Sergio Canales scored the penalty and Betis went ahead, but it took just three minutes for Lionel Messi to find Frenkie De Jong with an amazing assist, and the Dutchman did not disappoint in front of goal. Two goals in less than 10 minutes, and we were off to a great one in Seville.
After scoring the equalizer Barça began dominating the match as they planed, with at least six players in the middle of the pitch at all times and creating good chances thanks to smart movement and passing around the box, with Messi missing a golden opportunity in front of goal thanks to a nice save by Joel Robles.
Barça looked in complete control and closer to the second goal than Betis, but a silly mistake by Arturo Vidal gifted the hosts a counter attack and Nabil Fekir gave his team the lead again. The Blaugrana looked deflated for a while and struggled to create, until the very last play of the half: Messi with a free-kick into the box, and the ball found Sergio Busquets who scored a rare goal and equalized for Barça.
At halftime, the visitors were the better team and scored a huge goal before halftime, but they needed to defend better to win the game in the second half.
The start of the second half was really, really ugly, with no midfield play from either team and a lot of fouls and bad passes from both sides. Barça had very little effectiveness in possession, but they did create the two best chances in the first 20 minutes of the half through Messi, but the captain was stopped twice by Robles in goal.
Quique Setién brought on Jordi Alba and Arthur to use the ball better and be more incisive around the box, and the changes worked as the two substitutes came on hungry and helped both the buildup at the back and the passing in the final third. As we reached the final 20 minutes, Barça were once again the better team and looked ready to score at any moment.
And they did: Messi took a free-kick from deep and put the ball into a dangerous area, and Clément Lenglet was the stronger man in the air and headed home the go-ahead goal. Things got better for Barça when Nabil Fekir received a yellow card for a foul, then said something to the referee and was booked for a second time in 10 seconds resulting in a red for the Betis midfielder.
Barça only had an extra man for two minutes, however: Lenglet received a second yellow for a foul in midfield and also saw red, and we had just 20 players on the pitch with 15 minutes to go. Barça had a precious lead and their best passers on the pitch, so they decided to keep the ball and run out the clock without any trouble.
They could have had a penalty to clinch the win when Marc Bartra clearly held Messi inside the box, but both the referee and VAR completely ignored it for some reason. But it didn’t matter in the end as the final whistle came to finish a wild 95 minutes in Seville. It was far from pretty, but what matters is we’ve won on the road. Two months and 18 days later.
Real Betis: Robles; Emerson, Mandi, Bartra, Moreno; Canales, Rodríguez (Tello 86’), William (Joaquín 69’); Aleñá, Iglesias (Loren 61’), Fekir
Goals: Canales (6’), Fekir (26’)
Red Card: Fekir (76’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Lenglet, Firpo (Alba 56’); Roberto, Busquets, De Jong; Vidal (Arthur 56’); Messi, Griezmann (Rakitic 88’)
Goals: De Jong (9’), Busquets (45’+2), Lenglet (72’)
Red Card: Lenglet (78’)