The Andalusian side outplayed their opponents for spells but will rue missed chances along with a second half red card which allowed the hosts to earn the victory
With late second-half goals from Alexis Sanchez and Lionel Messi, Barcelona were able to earn a difficult 4-2 victory over Real Betis at Camp Nou on Sunday evening.
First-half goals from Xavi and Messi were cancelled out by a close range strike from Ruben Castro and a second-half rocket by Roque Santa Cruz. After Mario Alvarez picked up a red card, the home side were able to earn the advantage through Sanchez, with Messi scoring the fourth goal through a penalty. The win closes the gap on leaders Real Madrid back to five points.
Messi showed off his Ballon d'Or trophy to a rapturous reception from the home fans, prior to kick off, and he, once more, would play an important part in the outcome of the match.
Thus far, Pep Guardiola's men had not conceded a single goal at home in La Liga, but Betis looked as if they were going to change this early on. In the seventh minute, the away side nearly opened scoring when Castro found Jorge Molina in the 18-yard box. The striker had his point-blank strike turned away by Victor Valdes.
From the resulting corner, an unmarked Castro rose to dangerously head the ball towards the home side's goal, but his effort was once again turned aside by Valdes.
The Verdiblancos rued missing those chances as moments later, as Barcelona made them pay for their lack of accuracy. On the edge of the 18-yard box, Isaac Cuenca played a clever through-ball for Cesc Fabregas. The Spain international shot towards goal but had his effort denied by the post, and on the rebound, Xavi made no mistake, slotting the ball home.
Two minutes later, Alexis Sanchez worked his way up the left side, and sent a looping cross in for Messi who guided the ball into Casto Espinosa's goal to double the Catalan side's advantage.
But in the 32nd minute, Valdes was forced to pick the ball from the back of his goal for the first time this season. After working his way around the Barcelona keeper, Molina found Salvo Sevilla at the edge of the box. The midfielder hit a weak effort towards goal but Castro redirected into the net to bring the visitors back into the game.
In the second half, Betis continued to take the game to the champions and managed to equalise. On a rapid counterattack, Santa Cruz found Molina on the left; the pacy forward made his way up his flank and returned the ball to Santa Cruz who unleashed a screamer from outside the box to beat Valdes for the second time of the night.
The Blaugrana upped the tempo, looking to earn the advantage with their usual style of play. Their opponents, however, soaked up all the pressure that the home side was placing on them, and the fans were further aggreived when Andres Iniesta was booked for simulation in the area, when it looked as though Jefferson Montero had caught him.
In the 70th minute, Mario earned his second yellow card and was sent off, and this proved to be the turning point. Capitalising on the man advantage, the home side earned the advantage. Sanchez struck a weak effort from outside the box to beat Casto who could've done more to stop the Chilean's strike.
Soon after, Jose Dorado was punished for handball in his own box and Messi did not falter from 12 yards, sealing the victory for his side.
With the win, Barcelona continue to keep pace with Real Madrid, finding themselves five points away from the top of La Liga. Betis still find themselves mid-table, hoping to keep pace and avoid the relegation zone.
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