Hard Fought Draw After Alves Sees Red
FC Barcelona closed out their league campaign with a 2-2 draw at Real Betis. In a dramatic encounter, Busquets handed Barça the lead with a header from a corner, but, just as the game was looking straightforward, Dani Alves was sent off and Betis responded with two well-taken goals by Rubén Castro. Keita salvaged a point with a header in injury time.
Barcelona’s first half performance was as dominant as any away from home this season, pinning Betis back in front of the area and defending intelligently on the few occasions they lost possession. Betis were very swift on the break, but time after time Javier Mascherano was in the right position to win the ball back for his team, and make sure Víctor Valdés had nothing to do.
After maintaining pressure from the opening whistle, the away team took the lead within ten minutes – Xavi swung a corner in from the right, which Busquets met unchallenged at the near post to head home into the far bottom corner of the goal and give Barça an early lead.
Xavi had a free-kick from 25 yards, which had Casto worried and hit the side-netting of the near-post. Ibrahim Afellay was impressive in the opening period, demonstrating his pace and dribbling abilities, but it was Adriano at left-back who would next test Casto, when he cut in from the left-wing, evaded his marker and powerd a shot at the right side of goal, which the ‘keeper did well to tip past the post on the stretch.
The first ten minutes of the second half were packed with incident. Keita had chances, first drawing yet another smart save from Casto, and later firing straight at the Betis ‘keeper. Immediately after, Rubén Castro got the better of Mascherano for the first time in the match, but Víctor Valdés showed no signs of rustiness when he rushed off his line to smother the ball.
Then Dani Alves was earned a second yellow and expulsion from the pitch for a wild tackle on Jonathan Pereira as the winger took him on down the left wing.
Guardiola elected to withdraw Afellay for replacement right-back Montoya, and went about the game much the same fashion as before Alves’ red card, but Valdés had to make a reaction save with his legs in the 69th minute when Mascherano deflected a Nacho cross towards goal.
It proved to be a warning of things to come, because minutes later Rubén Castro latched onto a through ball and lifted his finish over the onrushing Valdés to equalise. And almost immediately after, Rubén Castro got in behind once again – this time he was released by Beñat, and found the bottom right corner to give Betis the lead.
Late in the game Messi smashed a free-kick from 30 yards that had Casto beaten, but rebounded off the post. And then, right at the death Montoya swung a teasing cross that Keita nodded down and in.
0-1 Busquets (min 8)
1-1 Rubén Castro (min 70)
2-1 Rubén Castro (min 73)
2-2 Keita (min 91)