FC Barcelona defeated Real Betis at the Camp Nou on Saturday night to preserve their eleven point gap at the top of the table only few hours after their arch rivals, Real Madrid had beaten Almeria 4-2 at the Bernabeu.
In a match which saw the return of Ousmane Dembele and the debut of 15-year old Lamine Yamal, the hosts look as dominant and aggresive as they could be.
Blaugranas went ahead in the fourteenth minute of play. Pedri played Rafinha out wide on the right, the Brazilian"s curling cross from the right wing was met with a confident, brilliant header from Andreas Christensen, his first goal of the season and his first for Barcelona.
Betis" calamities and nightmares began in the 33rd minute when they were reduced to 10 men, Edgar Gonzalez receiving his marching orders, a second yellow card for a rash challenge, stepping on Pedri"s foot.
The La Liga leaders doubled the lead in the 36th minute. Gavi played Kounde through on the right, the French man squared into the box for Robert Lewandowski to execute a brilliant finish, a right-footed strike into Rui Silva"s net.
Three minutes later, it was Sergio Busquets" sweeping pass through the Betis midfield that found Rafinha slightly onside, the Brazilian winger keeping the ball under control and simply rounding past Silva into the net.
Betis found their only shot on target of the game in the 53rd minute as Ter Stergen used his body to save Juan Miranda"s close range effort after Ayoze Perez"s pass had found the former in the box. Barcelona then hit the woodwork three minutes later. Alejandro Balde worked the ball to Pedri, the Spaniard played Lewandowski through and the forward struck a left-footed shot at the left post.
Araujo had an attempt from a header in the 69th minute, putting the chance from Rafinha"s corner kick wide before the Brazilian himself blasted a low shot wide of the goal three minutes later.
Barcelona then got the fourth in the 82nd minute when Guido Rodriguez put the ball in his own net from an Ansu Fati low cross which was meant for Lewandowski.
The hosts had yet another opportunity in the 85th minute as Lewandowski saw his shot from outside the box parried away by Rui Silva. A minute later, the Betis goalie made another save, this time denying the debuting Lamine Yamal in a one-on-one situation.
The tie marked Ousmane Dembele"s much anticipated return to the starting line-up, eventually getting few minutes of game time as he continues to work his way towards fitness. The French winger had been sidelined after sustaining a hamstring injury in Barcelona"s 1-0 away win over Girona on January 28.
Barcelona"s big win means they are now about seven points away(two wins and a draw) from winning their first La Liga title since 2019 when an Ernesto Valverde led side finished with 87 points in 38 games. A somewhat easy road for them, Xavi Hernandez and his boys should be able to get the job done, having to face Osasuna, Espanyol, Sociedad, Valladolid, Mallorca and Celta Vigo till the season ends.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images