Hell-bent on winning. In need of celebrations. Without Dembélé but with Raphinha and Lewandowski. Without reinforcements but with Gavi debuting his number 6 number. Without wingers but with the four midfielders. At the Benito Villamarín against a good Betis, Barcelona managed to end even for a day with the debate on how to stop suffering although they had to sweat until the end. This time Xavi Hernández's Barça, the one from La Nueva Era, the outstanding leader of the League, did not win 0-1. He used goals from Raphinha and Lewandowski, both somewhat erratic but decisive. His goals were worth more than an own goal from Koundé in the final stretch and serve to close the first round of the championship with a superb score: 50 points that allow us to dream of the League. There are 16 wins, two draws and a single loss (3-1 at the Bernabeu). By the way, Barça leaves the whites eight points behind at the expense of what happens in Madrid-Valencia.
It was not easy. Barça ran into a Betis with a high sense of self-esteem despite losing a few days ago in the Cup and the fact that they have not been able to beat Barcelona at home for 12 years. Long live Betis manquepierda is his motto. It also happens that Pellegrini was too aware of the semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup, resolved in a penalty shootout thanks to Ter Stegen.
Xavi also dusted off his reluctance to place two pure wingers. In Riyadh, the game became a street runner, something that the Verdiblancos playmaker took advantage of. To avoid the scare, control the ball more and, incidentally, keep an eye on Fekir and Borja Iglesias, the coach bet from the start on the four midfielders with Busquets controlling Guido Rodríguez and with Pedri and Gavi avoiding Carvalho and receiving very close to the area.
Raphinha had to play in Dembélé's place. The Brazilian winger quickly sensed that he was offside at his first threat. He went at speed, looking for Abner's back, the new Betic left-back signed in this winter transfer window, cut in the bottom line and shot without an angle forcing Rui Silva to intervene. He did not get on the scoreboard either, just annulled, the goal he scored after heading a great pass from Frenkie de Jong.
Raphinha also tried to look for Lewandowski, somewhat rusty after serving three games through suspension. In a corner kick, the Brazilian put it well at the near post but the Pole's header went just wide. The secret goal-scoring weapon of Barcelona did not have his best day, and even so, his return was rewarded.
Betis also played showing off the attacking game. A well-positioned Balde unchained by his left flank became Fekir and Luiz Henrique's worst nightmare. Reliability also transmitted by the duo Araújo and Christensen, implacable in defense. And if they didn't get there, Koundé was there to stop the incursions of Borja Iglesias, Betic's top scorer, and intercept a shot from Canales that came in alone. Faced with such a wall, the clearest chance for the Béticos in the first half was a high shot by Carvalho.
That of the blaugrana, on the other hand, was born from Pedri's boots. This Barça does know how to break lines to advance with the ball, but the problem continues to lie in better defining the last pass. The canary, patient and providing that point of pause, had a dribble left over. He didn't see that Bucket was alone either. And Rui Silva stopped him. After the intermission came the first shot between the three sticks. The action was exquisite. A great run from Balde, a pass into the area and a powerful left-footed shot from Pedri. The Betis goalkeeper deflected it with one hand.
The pressure of Barcelona was increasing at times. Much more aggressive. The ball flowed fast. But almost all the plays were unsuccessful. Raphinha suffered, obstructed by Abner. Also Lewandowski. Xavi, exalted, asked his two forwards to calm down and head down. And in those came the redemption goal of the Brazilian. They gave him the target two accelerations from Balde to the bottom line in a play started by Frenkie de Jong. Lewandowski wanted to join the protest party. Araújo headed in the corner taken by Pedri and the Pole scored his 14th goal in the League. The victory was in danger due to the own goal scored by Koundé and which ended the good run of Ter Stegen who had not conceded since December 31.
Betis reacted. But Busquets was in charge of ending the Betic illusions, taking out a ball that Juanmi was going to finish off