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5 April 2014
• Camp Nou, Barcelona
Referee: Eduardo Prieto Iglesias
• Attendance: 81978
L. Messi 14', 86'
Jordi Figueras 67' (own goal)
Rubén Castro 68'
Barca, meanwhile, close the gap back to one point behind Atletico, and heap the pressure on Real Madrid to beat Real Sociedad this evening. They aren't going to allow this title to stay in Madrid without a fight. For now, however, I've been Tom Maston and thanks for joining me.
The full-time whistle is blown and in the end Barcelona run out 3-1 winners. They were certainly made to work for their three points, and if Betis can perform like that for the rest of the season they may well perform the great escape yet.
90' + 3'
Yet more thrilling attacking play from the hosts leads to Messi finding Fabregas, but as with Neymar moments earlier, his curling effort goes just wide of the upright.
90' + 2'
It should be 4-1 as Neymar is found in space on the left-hand side of the area, but he can only curl his effort wide. In the end the flag may have been up, meaning his blushes have been spared this time.
The visitors may well have given this one up now but they can be proud of the way they have gone about this one. Barcelona have certainly been tested. Three minutes of added time to be added.
Betis are throwing everyone forward now and leaving gaps at the back. Barcelona could add to their lead before the final whistle, though Xavi won't be finding the net as he is replaced by Song.
Penalty save Adàn
Missed Penalty Lionel Messi
Goal Lionel Messi
GOAL!!! Adan makes a fantastic save as he dives to his right to parry the penalty, but Messi is alive to it and just about gets the rebound past the goalkeeper. That should be that you would fancy now.
PENALTY! Confusion reigns at Camp Nou, but Barcelona have a penalty as Neymar gets down the left and his cross hits Juanfran's arm. Messi to kill the game off from the spot...
Nervy times for the home supporters as Carlos whips a free-kick in from the right that causes havoc inside the Barcelona six-yard box. Somehow no Betis player can get a foot on it and Barcelona clear.
A final change for Betis as Rodriguez replaces Baptistao.
Into the final ten minutes now and Betis are continuing to fight hard for every ball. Messi is the focal point of every Barcelona attack now, but Figueras is doing well to keep him relatively quiet.
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Martino makes a double change as Iniesta and Pedro make way for Fabregas and Neymar.
Yellow Card Amaya
Sanchez has been much quieter in the second half but he is involved here as Messi plays a through ball into the box but the Chilean fires well over the bar. Meanwhile Amaya catches Iniesta and picks up a booking.
Pinto has to be on his toes to come off his line and collect a cross towards the back post with three Betis players queuing up to put the ball in the net.
Messi again misses a chance to add to his tally as it's Alves this time who finds him breaking into the box, but Reyes and Figueras give him no room and he cannot get control of the ball as it bounces out for a goal kick.
Barca fly forward again as Adriano finds space on the left before crossing for Messi. The ball is slightly behind the little maestro and he cannot get the power or direction on his shot to trouble Adan.
So, just as Barcelona thought they may have a comfortable final 20 minutes to see out now must concentrate again as Betis push for an equaliser. Neymar is out warming-up and it may not be long until we see him.
Goal Rubén Castro
GOAL!!! Betis back in it, and it's the substitute Castro with his sixth goal in as many matches against Barca. The forward leaves Iniesta for dead before sliding the ball between Adriano and Mascherano as they dived in. Game on again.
Own Goal Jordi Figueras
OWN GOAL! Betis have dominated the last ten minutes, but now they find themselves two down. Figueras is the man to hold his head in his hands as Adriano's pass across the edge of the area is prodded past Adan and into his own net. Heartbreak for the bottom side.
That may have been the wake up call Barca required, and they really should double their lead as Alexis and Iniesta combine to leave the latter with an open goal to fire into, but somehow the Betis defence get it clear.
GREAT SAVE! Betis go very close to finding an equaliser as N'Diaye gets clear of the defence, and after his poked shot from the edge of the area is deflected, Pinto does brilliantly to tip the effort over the bar.
Betis are just getting used to their new system, but Barca aren't really threatening at the moment. This game remains far from over with the hosts failing to press home their advantage in terms of possession and territory.
Betis make a double change as Vadillo and Cedric are replaced by Molina and Castro as they search for an equaliser.
Yellow Card L. Reyes
We have the first booking of the match as Reyes picks up a yellow card, and he will now be suspended for the bottom side's next outing.
Betis having their best period of the match here, and they really should have tested Pinto as Vadillo picked up the ball on the left. With N'Diaye and Cedric in the middle he looked to cross but his ball into the area was far too heavy and the chance was gone.
Not so good this time from Cedric as he should really cross from the right, but instead fires well off target with his first time volley.
Cedric's pace has caused Adriano some problems, and this time he gets the better of the full-back and gets to the byline. His cross is looking for N'Diaye in the six-yard box, but Mascherano does well to clear.
In truth, Barcelona have probably tried to be too clever with their attacking play, with Iniesta this time seeing a pass through the middle end with Messi being flagged for offside. Some frustration being shown by the home fans.
Betis have an opportunity as Carlos whips in a free-kick from the left, but Adriano is able to see the ball out for a goal kick despite some pressure from Amaya at the back post.
Xavi is the man to hit it but he can't quite get the required dip as the ball kisses the crossbar on its way over the top. Adan looked rather worried then but Betis survive again.
Chance here for Barcelona as Alves wins a free-kick right on the edge of the area by Betis skipper Amaya. Xavi and Messi stand over it...
Unsurprisingly, Barcelona begin the second half as they played most of the first with the ball at their feet and looking comfortable in possession. If this continues Betis will tire very quickly.
Betis kick-off and we are back underway with the hosts leading 1-0...
The players are making their way back out onto the field and we are almost ready for the second half...
Vadillo in particular has looked bright for the visitors, and Calderon's side need to get the ball to him more often if they are to come away with anything you feel. There's certainly more goals in this one, and I'll be back for the second half in ten minutes.
No stoppage time at the end of the first half and the referee signals the end of the opening 45 minutes. Messi's penalty separates the two sides, and though the hosts have been much the better side, Betis remain firmly in this match.
N'Diaye almost gets lucky as the ball falls at his feet after Barca fail to clear a corner, but the defenders recover to steal the ball away before the former Sunderland man can get a shot away.
JUST WIDE! Barcelona back to their brilliant best as Iniesta somehow digs the ball out from under his feet to find Messi, and with defenders diving in all around him, the Argentine curls an effort narrowly wide of the post from the edge of the area. Almost a world-class strike.
As Barca continue to pour forward, replays have been shown of that Busquets tackle, and the midfielder may have been slightly fortunate to get away with that. He may well have been deemed the last man had the referee spotted the fact he took the man before the ball, meaning he would have been given his marching orders.
Busquets loses the ball in midfield, and as Baptistao looks to counter with no defenders back, the Spain midfielder does well to make a challenge and win the ball back.
A good break from midfield by Cedric puts the home defence under pressure, but he is forced out wide by Mascherano and evetually sees the ball go out of play for a goal kick.
Adriano almost gets lucky as his shot from the left gets a huge deflection, and with Adan stationery, the ball flies just wide of the post.
The fans inside Camp Nou are doing their best to lift the home side. They would have been expecting a routine win, and though their team lead, it is probably a bit too close for comfort at present.
It's Alves this time who threatens as he looks for Alexis in the area but Betis again get it clear. The visitors are defending manfully at present and keeping themselves in it.
Almost vinatage Barcelona as Messi shows quick feet before finding Iniesta, but the midfielder's ball over the top is just too heavy for Sanchez and is cleared.
Understandably Betis are putting 11 men behind the ball when Barca pick up the ball in midfield, and as good as the home team are on the ball they are struggling to find gaps in the visitors' defence.
Vadillo has certainly looked bright for the visitors, and he looks to test Pinto again as he cuts inside from the left before shooting from 20 yards. It is straight at the goalkeeper, though, who holds on comfortably.
We haven't seen much of Alves on the right-hand side, and he almost gets to the byline but is shepherded out of it by the Betis defence. Not much goalmouth action in the last few minutes.
Bartra almost puts Pinto in trouble as he plays a weak backpass to his goalkeeper, and the veteran has to be on his toes to get it clear under pressure.
Chances at both ends now as Vadillo tries his luck from 20 yards with a volley. Pinto scrambles across his goal but in the end he can just watch it bounce wide of his right-hand post.
HOW HAS THAT MISSED!? Messi is at the centre of things as he feeds Adriano on the left, but his cross is just ahead of both Sanchez and Alves with the goal gaping. Betis will be wondering how they survived that.
A first opportunity for the visitors as Cedric is played in behind Mascherano but his shot across goal is weak and Pinto can get down to save with ease.
On the rare occasion that Betis come forward, Bartra has been the man who has won a number of tackles and headers in the box. No nerves for the centre-half after replacing Pique.
That's no more than Barca deserve after dominating the opening 15 minutes. Betis are looking to break when they can but they just don't have the quality to open the home team up.
Penalty Goal Lionel Messi
GOAL!!! No mistake from Messi as he sends Adan the wrong way and scores his tenth goal in seven matches. The perfect start for the home side.
PENALTY! Sanchez has been excellent so far and he shows superb feet to win a spot kick for the hosts. He twists and turns before going down under the challenge of Figueras, and Messi will step up from 12 yards...
Betis are struggling to get out of their own half at present, with Barca keeping the pressure on with some quick passing play in midfield.
GOOD SAVE! Barca are getting going now as Adriano gets forward on the left before pulling the ball back for Xavi. The midfielder curls an effort on goal but Adan gets down well to parry.
From the resulting corner. Bartra wins the corner on the edge of the six-yard box, but as he meets the ball at pace he can only head over the top.
Alexis is very involved in these opening stages, and is able to get in behind after a superb pass from Xavi, but Amaya is able to get across to concede the corner.
More frustration for Sanchez as he looks to cut inside from the right but he cannot beat the first defender. Betis holding firm, but there's a long way to go.
A quiet start to proceedings here, with Betis looking to press the home players as much as possible. Sanchez has been able to get on the ball a couple of times on the right, but has had little joy.
After a period of Barcelona pressure, Betis threaten for the first time as Baptistao gets free down the left and Bartra has to be on his toes to clear out for a corner. The set-piece then comes to nothing as the hosts clear.
The teams have made their way out onto the pitch, with Barcelona kicking-off as we get underway...
The two teams are in the tunnel ahead of kick-off as we move ever closer to kick off at Camp Nou. Can Betis spring a shock, or will Barcelona keep up the pressure on the Madrid sides in the quest for the Liga title.
You'd fancy the hosts will be looking to get this match over as early as possible so that some of their key men can be rested ahead of the European trip to Madrid in midweek. They are technically behind in that tie, and they cannot afford anymore injuries.
There are now just ten minutes until kick-off in Catalunya, and news will be filtering through that Atletico have hung onto their 1-0 lead against Villarreal and moved four points clear at the top of La Liga. The certainly puts the pressure on Barcelona here, as they know anything less than a victory will see them fall back in the race for the title.
Barcelona's form is not as bad as some have suggested, with their draw against Los Rojiblancos their first failure to win in six matches. They do seem to have found league form at the right time, and with Messi having scored nine goals in that period, he looks set to be the man to lead their challenge for the title in the closing stages of the season.
As expected, Pique's place at the heart of the Barcelona defence is taken by Bartra while Valdes remains on the sidelines, with Pinto deputising in goal. Neymar must make do with a place on the bench.
Real Betis: Adan; Juanfran, Amaya, Figueras, Carlos; Reyes, N'Diaye, Nono; Vadilo, Baptistao, Cedric.
Barcelona: Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Pedro.
Before we go any further, the two team line-ups are in ahead of kick-off...
Betis, in comparison, are all but down after a chastening campaign. They are eight points from safety and are in desperate need of points. Claiming wins at Camp Nou is nigh on impossible, so a victory today looks very unlikely despite Barcelona's problems.
After their 1-1 draw against Atletico in the Champions League in midweek, and with injuries mounting up, Barca desperately need a boost in morale ahead of the title run-in. If Atletico hang onto their lead in Madrid then Martino's side will kick-off four points off the summit, and anything less than a win could see their title hopes go up in smoke.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the Primera Liga encounter between Barcelona and Real Betis at Camp Nou. With Atletico Madrid currently leading Villarreal, Tata Martino's side desperately need a victory to keep pace with the league leaders. They start as heavy favourites against La Liga's bottom side, and I, Tom Maston, will be guiding you through all the action.
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