Barcelona remain perfect in 2023 and are eight points clear at the top of the La Liga thanks to a 2-1 win away to Real Betis at the Benito Villamarín on Wednesday night. The Blaugrana played a very strong game from start to finish and fully deserved the victory despite scoring a late own goal that complicated things a bit, but the Catalans managed to hold on to the three points and have a very comfortable lead for at least 24 hours.
Barça played an impressive opening period, with four midfielders on the pitch to control the game with possession and good variety in their passing to catch the Betis defense off guard and open up spaces.
The Blaugrana missed two big chances early with Raphinha and Pedri unable to beat Rui Silva from point-blank range, and Raphinha had a goal disallowed for a narrow offside call. Pedri missed another big opportunity towards the end of the half and Gavi failed to convert an easy header that went just wide.
On the other end the visitors barely suffered defensively, with a couple of dangerous Betis counter-attacks resulting in either shots that didn’t trouble Marc-André ter Stegen or very good blocks and interventions by the Barça defenders.
At halftime Barça were the better team and had created enough to be ahead, but their finishing let them down and they needed to convert their chances to find the winning goals in the second half.
Barça’s second half was even better than the first: they improved on their strong opening frame and were even more dominant with the ball, occupying Betis’ half and maintaining their threat with constant movement and incisive passing.
They scored the opening goal 20 minutes into the period thanks to Frenkie De Jong’s intelligence to take a quick free-kick and find Alejandro Balde in a great position to play a perfect cross to Raphinha who as alone at the far post to score a tap-in.
Betis couldn’t respond and Barça continued to stay on top, and made it 2-0 with 10 minutes to go when Pedri sent a corner into the box, Ronald Araujo won the initial header and Robert Lewandowski pounced on the rebound to double the lead.
Barça seemed in complete control in the final minutes but an unfortunate mistake from Jules Kounde led to an own goal and brought Betis right back in the game to set up a tense finish.
The Blaugrana managed the final minutes very well and never allowed a chance for a desperate Betis, and the final whistle came to give Barça three giant points in the title race. The most encouraging aspect of the night, however, was the level of performance. Betis are a good team that was made to look mediocre by a Barça side that was fully in control, and this is the right way to start a big month.
Real Betis: Silva; Ruibal (Sabaly 77’), Pezzella, Felipe, Abner; Rodríguez, Carvalho (Guardado 62’); Henrique (Rodri 77’), Fekir (Juanmi 62’), Canales; Iglesias (José 77’)
Goal: Kounde (OG 85’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Pedri (Kessie 90’), Busquets, De Jong; Raphinha (Fati 82’), Lewandowski, Gavi (Ferran 84’)
Goals: Raphinha (65’), Lewandowski (80’)