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The goals just haven’t been coming for Barça in recent games. The team had gone four Liga games without a win, and in the first half of Saturday’s game with Betis, it looked like the problem hadn’t gone away: plenty of chances, but just one goal to show for it.
All that changed after the break. Everything fell into place, and by the end of it Barça were able to celebrate a five-goal victory against a very good opponent. The goals, indeed, are back!
At half-time it felt like Barça should have been more than a goal up, and instead it was 1-1. Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati saw great chances go begging early on, and instead it was Ousmane Dembélé who finally broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute.
The Betis defence probably gave the Frenchman more room than they should have, but the power of the strike meant former Barça keeper Claudio Bravo had no time to react in time. And that was Dembélé’s first league goal in over a year and a deserved lead for the blaugrana.
Betis bounce back
Buoyed but the first goal Barça could have made it two when Aïssa Mandi brought Ansu Fati down in the area and Griezmann stepped up to the take the penalty. But Bravo read his intentions well…
Barça may have been dominating, but Betis were also contributing to a pulsating encounter, and finally converted one of their own chances in the final move of the first half. It was Antonio Sanabria who pounced on the ball to score – and respectfully refused to celebrate it. The Paraguayan spent several years of his youth at La Masia, plus one season with Barça B.
Here comes Messi…
All of this had happened without Leo Messi even on the pitch. Ronald Koeman preferred to keep the Argentinian on the bench for the first half, and when he did come on for the restart he immediately had an impact – without touching the ball!
Jordi Alba played the assist, but rather than connect, Messi jumped over it. He knew exactly what he was doing… The ball went straight to the unmarked Griezmann, and all the latter had to do was tap it in and put Barça back in control. Sublime…
And on the hour Barça were three up. It was another penalty, this time for handball on the line but the culprit was the same man, Mandi. And that meant the Algerian was off. Messi stepped up and for the 12th consecutive penalty in all competitions, he made no mistake. Bang. 3-1.
Against ten men, Barça looked to have this under control. Even so Betis refused to lie down, and when Loren fired one in after 71 minutes the three points were suddenly not looking quite as secure…
Not for long though. Lovely back-heel from Sergi Roberto and there was Messi to slam in goal number four, surprisingly his first of the season from open play.
The same duo teamed up just two minutes later. Messi was denied his hat-trick by the offside flag … but there was still one more goal to come.
It was Sergi Roberto doing the assisting yet again – a delightful ball across the face of goal that was begging for somebody to knock in. And there was Pedri to do just that and notch up his first Liga goal for his new club.
5-2 was the same scoreline as in this fixture last year… All-round a very tight performance from Barça, and an emphatic way to put an end to a frustrating run in the league.
Now comes an international break, followed by a biggies: Atlético Madrid away. On today’s performance, Barça look more than ready for the challenge!
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