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Phantom goal, phantom team - Barcelona anonymous without Busquets & Iniesta

13:57 GMT 29/01/2017
The Catalans were denied by poor officiating in the draw at Betis, but were extremely disappointing without their two Spain midfielders in Seville


Phantom goal, phantom team. Barcelona were denied by a terrible decision away to Betis in La Liga on Saturday as a clear goal was not given despite crossing the line by a metre. Up until a late surge, however, the champions had been almost anonymous in the absence of both Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.

Over the line: Barcelona denied blatant goal by referee 

The game's biggest talking point will be the officials and the lack of goal-line technology in La Liga. Around 20 minutes earlier, Roger Federer hit a winner on match point in the final of the Australian Open against Rafa Nadal in Melbourne. Unclear whether it was in or out, it went to a Hawk-Eye review and that showed the ball had hit the line. In a moment, the debate had been settled and the Swiss had his 18th Grand Slam title.

In truth, goal-line technology should not even have been needed to settle this one. Aleix Vidal crossed and Betis' German Pezzella poked the ball towards his own net in a scramble, only for Aissa Mandi to clear from underneath the posts. However, the ball was well over the line.

Shades of Pedro Mendes' disallowed goal for Tottenham at Old Trafford in 2005. This was so far over the line that it is difficult to remember too many other similar incidents and Barca will feel rightly aggrieved - especially as Neymar was also pulled to the floor in the very same move. The Catalans should have had a penalty or a goal, but instead they received nothing at all.

Luis Suarez scored from a fine Lionel Messi pass after that to rescue a point for Luis Enrique's side at the Benito Villamarin and it really should have been three for the Catalan club. 

Barca lose ground in title race with Betis draw

"My discourse is the same," Luis Enrique said afterwards. "The officials need help. That's the same in decisions that go against and in decisions that go our way."

He is right and, as with Federer's winner in Melbourne some 20 minutes earlier, video technology would have settled it in an instant. Nevertheless, the incident should not overshadow just how bad Barcelona played for 75 minutes of the match without Busquets and Iniesta.

Betis are a struggling side and this should have been a routine work-out for Barca. A midday kick-off never seems to be one the Catalans enjoy, but for all their quality, they should have negotiated this match fairly comfortably.

Luis Enrique hits back at critics

Nothing of the sort. There were a few bright moments from Messi, Neymar and Suarez, but without the organisation of Busquets and the magic of Iniesta, the Blaugrana were well below their best.

Denis Suarez was unable to build on his recent positive displays, Arda Turan has played his best Barca games further forward and Ivan Rakitic was disappointing once again. And, with Lucas Digne and Jeremy Mathieu poor at the back, Betis could have scored more as they hit the post and also saw Ruben Castro freeze when one-on-one with Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

So, while Barca were denied by the officials on this occasion, their performance merited little more. Talk about the phantom goal will go on, but Luis Enrique's missing midfield also contributed to this result. Luckily for Luis Enrique, Busquets and Iniesta will be back soon.