After serving a three-match suspension, Robert Lewandowski scored to help Barcelona go eight points ahead of Real Madrid despite having played one more game.
Although Carlo Ancelotti’s team can close the gap against managerless Valencia on Thursday, this 2-1 victory for Barcelona was another impressive performance. Jules Kounde’s own goal, which cut the margin to one after Lewandowski’s 14th goal in 16 league games and the impressive Raphinha’s opening goal, left Barcelona hanging on for dear life.
Both teams came close to breaking the tie throughout the frantic first half. With his shot, Luis Henrique came very close. Aitor Ruibal was able to get through thanks to a wonderful pass from Nabil Fekir, and Jules Kounde then stopped Sergio Canales’ shot.
In Barcelona’s previous two home games, Pedri had scored, and he continued to be active after the half with a shot through a congested area that Rui Silva expertly stopped. At the opposite end, Fekir put Marc Andre ter Stegen to the test.
Raphinha then fell to the ground and demanded a penalty. It was an odd one because after Abner Vinicius clipped him, he didn’t fall, and when Canales challenged him but didn’t touch him, he dove over the challenge.
He posed a persistent danger and added the finishing touches when the breakthrough occurred. Alejandro Balde was sent down the left by De Jong, and the Brazilian turned in his cross from close range. It was Balde’s excellent assist on Raphinha’s third league goal of the year. But De Jong deserves praise as well; after Gavi was fouled, he quickly took the free kick to the left back.
These days, it’s difficult to imagine Barça losing once they score because they have only allowed six goals all season.
After more solid work from De Jong, they nearly increased their lead when Luis Felipe had to slide in to block a close-range attempt from Lewandowski. On 79 minutes, the Pole scored by sweeping in Ronald Araujo’s dipping header from Pedri’s corner.
When Kounde chested Youssouf Sabaly’s cross past Ter Stegen in the 85th minute, it should have been a straightforward conclusion for Xavi’s team, but they did lose goal number seven.
Benito Villamarin encouraged Betis to attempt an equalizer, but Barcelona held on to take the lead and extended their lead. Madrid must now defeat Valencia to contain Xavi’s rogue leaders.
Real Betis (4-2-3-1, right to left):
- Goalkeeper: R. Silva
- Right back: Ruibal (substituted by Sabaly in the 77th minute)
- Center back: Pezzella
- Center back: Felipe
- Left-back: Abner
- Central defensive midfielder: Carvalho (substituted by Guardado in the 62nd minute)
- Central defensive midfielder: G. Rodriguez
- Right winger: Henrique (substituted by Rodri in the 77th minute)
- Central attacking midfielder: Canales
- Left winger: Fekir (substituted by Juanmi in the 63rd minute)
- Center forward: Iglesias (substituted by W. Jose in the 77th minute)