All tihngs come to an end and for Barcelona Their ten-match winning streak came to an end. It was early December since Barcelona last played and not get the three points. Still based on their result at the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera and the likeliness of Madrid winning at El Molinón… Barcelona will remain with a two-digit lead over Real Madrid.
Even though they lined up a team that was far from the “A side” that the majority of fans of La Liga can now recite in their sleep, the rhythm of the game was pretty much the same. There was one caveat that the Blaugrana had in this match and it was Betis putting pressure on man with the ball. That seemed to be working a little, but they were able to block off the openings of the goal and Barcelona’s shots would have the effectiveness they usually did.
Betis goalkeeper Ricardo was the man of the match without a doubt. His eleven saves, including a penalty stop on Samuel Eto’o were part of the reason why the Verdiblancos were even in the game to start with. Not even the second half entry of Lionel Messi would help the visitors get the three points this time around. From an overall perspective it was a positive to get a point in a venue that has treated them pretty bad in recent years.
Betis were also able to do some damage the 25% of the time they had the ball. More importantly, they were able to attack Barca’s back post on set pieces and crosses. Early on the pace was set, but it would take two plays to rock Barca and put them on the ropes. In the 17th minute, a corner from the left went into the 18 and Melli would beat out Sergio Busquets in the second post. The header would leave Victor Valdés defeated and the Ruiz de Lopera in a frenzy.
While Barca continued to maintain possession of the ball in the Betis half, there was no significant change. Betis would once again traverse midfield and a Sergio García cross found Mark González in the left and the Chilean international had time to bring the ball down, dribble, and beat Valdés on his back post to double their advantage. The replay showed that Alexandre Hleb was not even in coverage and his performance in the match could have virtually ended his stay at the Nou Camp.
But Barca continued to posess and try to find openings in the Betis backline. That was easier said than done as there were instances where the Verdiblancos had up to eight people in the back and Ricardo Oliveira on the attack all by his lonesome. Oliveira was a warrior up front and had the opportunity to ice the game when he had a one-on-one with Valdés, and the Barcelona keeper came up with the biggest save of the game.
A few minutes later Samuel Eto’o would equalize and being an inspired Ricardo. That would not be the end as Xavi, Messi, Henry, Eto’o, and a host of others were denied by the Portuguese goalkeeper.
These upcoming five weeks will be among the toughest to overcome if the Catalans pretend to win their 19th league title… and more importantly, their first-ever Spanish treble ever.
Next Five League Games
2/22 vs. Espanyol vs. Betis
3/1 @ Atlético @ Espanyol
3/8 vs. Athletic vs. Atlético
3/15 @ Almería @ Athletic
3/22 vs. Málaga vs. Almería