Barcelona weren't at their best against Real Betis at Estadio Benito Villamarín on Saturday, but still did enough to earn a 2-0 win.
- Real Betis 0 Barcelona 2
- Westermann sent off
- Rakitic opens the scoring
- Suarez wraps up the points
- Barca go level with Atleti
An unusually out-of-sorts Barca struggled in the first half against an organised Real Betis, but the hosts did themselves no favours when Heiko Westermann got himself sent off just past the half-hour mark.
Barca broke the deadlock early in the second half after some sloppy defending allowed Ivan Rakitic to tap home.
And the Catalans improved as the second half wore on, despite never reaching their scintillating best, wrapping it up 10 minutes from full-time when Luis Suarez latched onto Lionel Messi’s through ball, securing the win that see Barca draw level on points with Atlético Madrid at the top of La Liga.
? Luis Enrique: "It's a very competitive league and I think the three candidates are strong. No-one will slip up, we depend on ourselves"
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 30, 2016
Betis made a superb start to the match, not allowing Barca to find their stride at all and effectively keeping their attacking players off the ball, with their first real chance falling to Andrés Iniesta after Neymar picked out the midfielder – though he sliced his effort well wide.
There was a flurry of yellow cards around the 20-minute mark, with Bruno going in the book for impeding Neymar, before Gerard Piqué caught Álvaro Cejudo in the back with his studs to meet the same fate, and Lionel Messi joined them for protesting.
With Betis doing well to keep an unusually timid Barca at bay, their task was made that much harder when Heiko Westermann needlessly lunged into a challenge on Ivan Rakitic in the 35th minute, earning him his second yellow card.
Barca were clearly told to pull themselves together at halftime, because they had their best chance of the match just three minutes into the second period. Neymar picked out Luis Suarez, who had made a run in behind the defence, but his first-time effort was wide at the near post.
Despite Barca failing to tick, they were gifted the lead in the 50th minute when a seemingly innocuous ball in from Messi was not dealt with by either Germán Pezzella or Antonio Adán and fell fortuitously for Rakitic to poke home.
Messi could well have doubled Barca’s lead in the 57th minute when he found room in the box to fire an effort towards the bottom corner, but former Barca defender Martín Montoya was there to make the block for Betis.
Barca almost worked a trademark goal in the 75th minute, only for Adan to gather, and the goalkeeper was called into action again in the 77th minute to deny Suarez after Messi had put him through.
Barca did eventually have their second goal in the 81st minute, when a swift counterattack saw Messi thread it through for Suarez, and the Uruguayan made no mistake with the finish to take the Catalans back to the top of the standings.
[FULL-TIME | FINAL] Real Betis vs FC Barcelona (0-2) Goals: Rakitic (50’), Suárez (81’) — [MVP presented by Qatar Airways] Who do you think was the best player of the match? Vote for the MVP! http://ow.ly/ZynIz Qui creus que ha estat el millor jugador del partit? Vota a l'MVP! http://ow.ly/Zynzx ¿Quién crees que ha sido el mejor jugador del partido? ¡Vota al MVP! http://ow.ly/ZynEq — All about the match at www.fcbarcelona.com Tot sobre el partit a www.fcbarcelona.cat Todo sobre el partido en www.fcbarcelona.es — #BetisFCB #FCBLive #LaLiga Força Barça! ??