FC Barcelona continued its unbeaten start to the league with a difficult 2-1 victory away to Real Betis. Messi scored the opening and game winning goals for Barça. Another brace for Messi and his two goals allowed him to tie and break the record set by Gerd Muller of scoring 85 goals scored in a calendar year. Barça’s victory meant that they were unbeaten after 15 matches, with 14 victories and a draw, and remains 6 points ahead of Atletico Madrid atop of the standings. It was not all good news however with Cesc having to come out with an injury that will rule him out 3 to 4 weeks. Barça will now shift their attention to their midweek Copa del Rey when they travel to face Córdoba in the first leg of the Round of 16 encounter.
Barça were back in action following their midweek draw against Benfica in the Camp Nou. Today’s opponents, Real Betis, have been known to be a thorn in the side of this club in recent history. Vilanova fielded a lineup with players who missed out on the Benfica encounter. Valdés was back in goal with Adriano, Piqué, Puyol, and Jordi Alba forming the back four. The midfield consisted of Busquets, Xavi, and Cesc supporting the front three of Pedro, Messi and Iniesta.
Barça kicked off the match with their usual domination of possessing the ball all over the pitch. However, they would suffer an early setback when Cesc went down with an injury in the 9th minute and had to be replaced by Alexis. Alexis was making his return from a lengthy absence from an injury. Barça’s setback was soon put on the back burner when, who else? Messi scored the opening goal.
Messi grabbed the opener in the 15th minute following one of his mesmerizing dribbles as he glided past numerous defenders before delivering one of those unbelievable smooth finishes that gave his side the lead. That goal tied the record set with Muller and also broke the record set by club legend César of scoring 190 goals in league play with the 25 year old now having scored 191 goals in league play.
A few minutes later, Barça could have been ahead by two goals but Iniesta’s clever chip was saved at the last moment by Betis’s keeper. However, Messi did not make us wait long for the record breaker. In the 25th minute, Messi scored what turned out to be the go ahead goal. Adriano charged down the pitch before passing it to Messi who combined with Iniesta inside the box, courtesy of a crafty back heel pass, and the unstoppable goal scorer grabbed his brace with another smooth left footed finish. That goal was the record breaking 86 goals for the young man and he will be adding more to that record before the year is over. He now has 23 league goals and 30 goals in all competitions.
Barça’s tendency to surrender goals would come back to haunt them Betis managed to pull a goal back six minutes before the interval. Betis were clinical in Barça’s final third of the pitch when Vadillo's through ball was latched on by Ruben Castro who timed his run perfectly to beat Barça’s off side trap. Jordi Alba played him onside and Castro was left alone with Valdés before converting from close range. Two minutes of injury time were given but neither side would take advantage of it.
Barça suffered another setback when Puyol had to be replaced by Mascherano prior to the second half kickoff. Puyol’s substitution came as a result of discomfort in his right thigh. His presence would be missed with Barça struggling in the second half against Real Betis. Betis came close to grabbing the equalizer when Valdés bobbled Molina’s cross before somehow managing to dive on the ball before anyone else could get to it. Luck was on Barça’s and Valdés’s side was headed down by Cañas which struck the post and Valdés dived onto the loose ball. Betis then saw another effort hit the woodwork later on too.
Barça’s best chance to finish off the game came in the 82nd minute when Messi’s shot from close range was stopped by the keeper who could only watch as Jordi Alba’s follow up struck the bar and ricocheted out of harm’s war. Xavi and substitute Thiago would also squander chances to grab the much needed insurance goal. Betis tried their best to grab the equalizer and their final chance came in stoppage time in the 92nd minute with a corner kick but the Blaugrana managed that situation well and claimed the hard earned 2-1 victory.
Barça’s victory meant that they were unbeaten after 15 matches, with 14 victories and a draw, and remains 6 points ahead of Atletico Madrid atop of the standings. It was not all good news however when the club announced that Cesc was ruled out 3 to 4 weeks. Barça will now shift their attention to their midweek Copa del Rey when they travel to face Córdoba in the first leg of the Round of 16 encounter.
Match Info (From Sport):
Real Betis: Adrián, Chica, Dorado, Amaya, Nacho; Beñat, Cañas, Salva Sevilla (Pozuelo, m.73), Juan Carlos (Vadillo, m.28), Rubén Castro & Campbell (Jorge Molina, m, 46).
FC Barcelona: Valdés, Adriano, Piqué, Puyol (Mascherano, m.46), Jordi Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Cesc (Alexis, m.10), Pedro (Thiago, m.81); Messi & Iniesta.
Goals: 0-1, Messi (m.15); 0-2, Messi (m.26); 1-2, Rubén Castro (m.39).
Referee: Velasco Carballo
Bookings: Campbell (m.36), Jordi Alba (m.61), Vadillo (m.62), Pedro (m.74) & Nacho (m.88).