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Match Report: Betis 3-2 Barça

In this match against Betis, Barça forgot one of football’s most basic rules: that the game lasts for 90 minutes.

Barça’s horizontal possession game contrasted with Betis’s straight-for-goal approach. Twice Betis threatened after Barça had lost possession, but this was quickly forgotten as Barça hit back with ten minutes of superb football. Eto’o was the first to come close when he forced a save from Casto after a corner from Xavi reached him, and a couple of minutes later a Xavi shot brought another save. In the 13th minute Henry laid the ball back to Xavi whose cross found Eto’o at the far post and his volley hit the bar, as the ball came out Bojan was quickest to react, controlling the ball with his back to goal he turned quickly to shoot past the goalkeeper and two defenders into the net.

Two minutes later Eto’o made another perfectly timed run from the right to meet Iniesta’s cross in front of Casto to head into the empty net. In the 19th minute Iniesta had another attempt well saved by Casto as it looked as if Barça would run riot. However, they took the foot off the accelerator and concentrated on keeping possession which until half time they did very well.

The second half started pretty much as the first half finished with Barça controlling possession but without creating any danger. In the 53rd minute Betis brought on Odonkor and Sobis who were to change the game. Barça’s precise football began to lose its precision and Betis began to create chances. Pavone had an effort saved by Valdés and then Sobis hit one wide from the left. Barça’s only reply was a timid curler from Eto’o which went well wide.

After 61 minutes Rijkaard decided top take off Barça’s talisman of recent games, Bojan, to introduce Giovani dos Santos. A minute later Betis pulled a goal back when Sobis turned Zambrotta this way and that before crossing to Edu who headed in unmarked from close range.

After the goal Barça fell to pieces. Abidal gifted Odonkor a chance in the 67th minute but Valdés saved the day with his knee. As Barça defended deeper and deeper Betis began to look for a penalty and twice had appeals turned down. Then in the 74th minute a pass inside saw Odonkor beat Abidal for speed and when there was a slight contact between the players Odonkor went down and this time the referee signalled a penalty. Edu blasted the ball down the middle and Valdés who was diving to his right saved the ball with his legs.

Before our celebration had finished Betis came straight back to score the equalizer. Toure misjudged a throw in and allowed Juanito the chance to chest the ball down before unleashing an unstoppable volley past Valdés. Barça were stunned and once again failed to react to adversity. Just two more minutes passed before another loss of possession, this time from Eto’o, allowed another direct counter attack from Edu who was given too much room by Thuram before cracking a 20-yard shot past Valdés.

Barça had created no danger in the second half and managed just one half chance in the remaining ten minutes when Gudjohnsen volleyed over Xavi’s long pass. This was a game that demonstrated how quickly the dynamics of a game can change if you don’t kill off your opponent. Barça played as though the three points were already in the bag and paid a heavy price for it. Betis sensed their chance and seized it, perhaps if the game had not been played in the Ruiz Lopera the reaction would not have been the same, but that serves as no excuse for Barça allowing this game to slip. There were some good performances in the first half, especially from Xavi and Iniesta, but others were far too laid back in their attitude.

If they lost motivation,Rijakaard and board of directors should help stimulate them. There’s a great example in Croatian football league, 1.HNL, how to do that. HNK Hajduk Split decided to punish their players after very bad season and draw with the last on the table (Hajduk also had 2-0 lead). Punishment is 10% of annual receiving for each player.

Barça: Valdés; Zambrotta, Thuram, Puyol, Abidal; Xavi, Toure (Gudjohnsen 79′), Iniesta; Bojan (Giovani 61′), Eto’o, Henry.

Goals: 13′ Bojan 0-1, 15′ Eto’o 0-2, 63′ Edu 1-2, 76′ Juanito 2-2, 78′ Edu 3-2

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