Barcelona defeated Real Betis on the road on Wednesday evening. The result, a victory on the road over a side competing for European qualification, is a massive boost for Xavi’s side. However, the game was a tight one, just as it was between the two in January at the Supercopa de España semifinal.

Barcelona entered the game with a five-point cushion of Real Madrid. Therefore, this game afforded the Catalan club a chance for more space between the two rivals. Barcelona took advantage.

For much of the game, Barcelona was the better side. Gavi, now officially registered as a first-team player donning the No. 6, linked well with Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets in the midfield. Even though Barcelona, as usual, held on to most of the ball, Betis prevented any scoring in the first half. By the same token, Barcelona nullified any sniff of its own goal from Betis.

However, the game opened up in the second half. That applies to both the scoresheet and the controversy.

Barcelona and Betis heat up for drama

Despite Barcelona looking dominant for the first hour of the contest, one player seemed out of place. Raphinha, unfortunately out of form and confidence, never seemed to get a grasp on the game.

Then, in the 65th minute, Alejandro Balde provided the antidote by giving the Brazilian a tap in to open the game. However, the start of the move for Barcelona drew serious ire from Betis and its supporters. A foul on Gavi stopped play, but the ball rolled away from the spot of the infraction. Frenkie de Jong, ever the opportunist, started play quickly, feeding a ball down the wing to Balde. Yet, when de Jong took the free kick, he was a good 10 yards away from where Gavi went down in the first place.

Robert Lewandowski took some of the steam out of the game with a goal in the 80th minute. In true goal poacher’s fashion, the Polish international pounced on a loose ball from a corner and tucked it past Real Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva.

Betis was not done though. Still angered by the referee decisions not going their way, Betis pushed forward. In the 85th minute, Betis forced the ball over the line for a goal. Youssof Salaby launched a searching ball in from the right side. Jules Koundé, working as Barcelona’s right back, had the ball deflect off his body and into the goal. The Frenchman was simply unprepared for the ball to get that far.

A key victory

Betis halving the deficit certainly made the last 10 minutes tense. Through a wave of whistling supporters, Barcelona held on to victory. It is the side’s fourth-straight one-goal win. The previous three were all 1-0 shutouts.

At the halfway point in the domestic season, Barcelona is flying. Fifty points, two draws and one loss are enough to have a cushion over Real Madrid. Granted, Los Blancos have played one less game than Barcelona. Still, Barcelona has the most goals scored and by far the fewest goals conceded. Barcelona has seven goals against through 19 games. Three of those were in the club’s only loss of the season, at Real Madrid.

Real Madrid is in action tomorrow on ESPN+, while Barcelona’s next game is a home contest against a struggling Sevilla side. Betis will look to get back to form on Sunday, when it hosts Celta Vigo.

PHOTO: IMAGO / CordonPress