Barcelona endured yet another frustrating night in the league, as Luis Enrique’s side left it late to rescue a point at Real Betis on Sunday.
Barcelona visited the Estadio Benito Villamarin to face Real Betis on Sunday, looking to maintain the pressure on league leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Sevilla, as the race for the La Liga title heats up in the second half of the season.
However, it turned out to be another La Liga matchday when the Blaugrana flattered to deceive and dropped two crucial points as they played out a 1-1 draw against Los Verdiblancos.
The hosts were the better of the two sides as they dominated the proceedings and created more clear cut chances, while looking dangerous on counter attack against their visitors who hogged the majority of the possession.
Real Betis 1-1 Barcelona FT:
Pass accuracy: 74%-83%
Chances created: 14-7
Shots: 17-10 pic.twitter.com/LXA5CrvE6C
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 29, 2017
Betis hit the woodwork twice through Dani Ceballos and Ruben Castro before Alex Alegria broke the deadlock to give his side a shock lead in the 75th minute. Barcelona then cried foul as they were denied a legitimate goal after Aissa Mendi cleared the ball when it had clearly crossed the line.
However, Luis Suarez saved Luis Enrique the blushes in the last minute as he latched on to Lionel Messi’s pass to score past Antonio Adan, and ensure a share of spoils with Betis.
The result left Barcelona four points behind Real Madrid, after they beat Real Sociedad later in the day. However, they climbed over Sevilla on goal difference after the Blaugrana’s fierce city rivals handed them a 3-1 loss on Sunday.
The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at some of the talking points to emerge out of another disappointing league outing for Barcelona.
Luis Enrique pays for poor selection
Barcelona were hit with a cruel blow last week in their visit to the Ipurua to face Eibar, as midfield mainstay Sergio Busquets sustained an ankle injury that would rule him out for the next few weeks.
Barcelona without Umtiti in La Liga 2016/17:
2W 6D 2L (1,2 points per game)
and with Umtiti:
10W 0D 0L (3,0 points per game)
— Mr. Numbers (@Mister_Numbers) January 30, 2017
While Busquet’s absence was set to result in a loss of assuredness that the Spain international provides in midfield, Barcelona boss Luis Enrique only made matters worse with his poor selection on the day as he chose to start with three of his second choice players in defence.
Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre ter Stegen were the only regulars starting the game, as Jeremy Mathieu, Lucas Digne and Aleix Vidal took their place in the Barcelona defence. On top of that, Ivan Rakitic and Arda Turan, who was playing in central midfield on Sunday, turned in poor performances as well to pile on the pressure on the back four.
Suffice to say, it was an underwhelming performance for the Barcelona defence, as the Real Betis attack enjoyed 17 shots on goal, often hitting the susceptible visitors on counters. Victor Sanchez’s side would also count themselves unlucky to have not won the match as they were twice denied by the crossbar.
Luis Suarez turns saviour for Barcelona
It hasn’t been a poor season for Luis Suarez in front of goal for Barcelona. After the unbelievable successes of the 2015/16 season, when he won both the Pichichi award and the European Golden Shoe, he has been comparatively less prolific in 2016/17.
8 – Luis Suárez have been involved in eight of the last ten FC Barcelona goals in all competitiones (six goals, two assists). Intense. pic.twitter.com/G5HBexmNqZ
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 29, 2017
November and December saw Suarez experience a bit of a slump as he struggled to find the back of the net as consistently as he has grown accustomed to over his illustrious career. However, come January, he has put all the concerns of bad form to rest, as he is back among the goals for Barcelona.
And Sunday saw Suarez step up and be counted when it mattered the most, as he buried the all important equaliser in the dying stages of the match to earn a vital point for Luis Enrique’s side, with a calm finish past Antonio Adan.
While he may have had to endure a few struggles through the campaign, signs are pointing in the right direction as the Uruguay international has stormed to the top of the Pichichi chart with 16 goals in La Liga, and 25 in all competitions. His form will be crucial for the Blaugrana if they are to win any silverware this season.
La Liga must embrace Goal Line Technology
Barcelona didn’t deserve to win solely on the basis of the performance on the day as Real Betis were easily the better of the two sides on the field on Sunday. However, count the number of times the ball crossed the line in goal, and it is Barcelona who, perhaps, should have headed home with three points.
📸 | Analysis of Barcelona’s disallowed goal against Real Betis. The ball was 57cm behind the line. [El Chiringuito TV] pic.twitter.com/w2Tpsa5OUu
— Catalan Edition (@CatalanEdition) January 30, 2017
That’s right, they had a legitimate goal disallowed only minutes after Alex Alegria put the hosts ahead, as Aissa Mandi cleared a ball heading into goal, but only after it had crossed the line. However, what should have been a goal was not adjudged as one when it had clearly crossed the line.
The Barcelona players were visibly furious, but perhaps, the blame for that should be pinned on the Spanish league instead of the officials. That is because La Liga remains the only one of Europe’s top five leagues to have not implemented the path breaking goal line technology.
The reason: it is too expensive, but referees have often advocated for the technology to be implemented everywhere as they act as reliable assistants on the field. After Sunday’s afternoon’s fiasco, it may be time for the Spanish league to give goal line technology a serious consideration.
A field day for the goalkeepers
Alongside Betis’ domination for large parts of the match, the game will also be remembered for being one when the goalkeepers turned out to be the heroes for both the sides.
Ter Stegen: “It’s good for me to make saves like that, but what I really care about is the result. And that was not the result we wanted.”
— Barcastuff (@barcastuff_real) January 29, 2017
Antonio Adan, who had three years ago made his debut for Real Madrid after rising through the ranks at the Castilla, was one of the difference maker for Betis, as he turned in a fantastic performance to deny the Barcelona attackers time and again, in particular Neymar and Luis Suarez who were thwarted brilliantly on a couple of occasions.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, too, enjoyed a superb outing for Barcelona, as he stepped up to deliver a splendid performance to keep his side in the game on several occasions.
After initially struggling at Camp Nou, the young German finally seemed to have settled with the Spanish giants and his performance in goal often turns out to make a difference for his side.
Victor Sanchez turning things around at Real Betis
Gus Poyet was handed the reigns at Real Betis at the start of the season, as the Uruguayan was given charge of ushering a new era at the Andalusian club.
Real Betis unbeaten in all 7 home matches under Victor Sanchez del Amo #RealBetisBarca
— Andalucía in English (@andalucia_news) January 29, 2017
However, in what were a horrific four months at the helm, Poyet was sacked just eleven games and four months into the Betis job as his side struggled at the start of the season.
Victor Sanchez was the man to replace the former Sunderland boss, given the responsibility to turn things around at the Estadio Benito Villamarin. And how well has the young Spanish manager done that.
The 40-year-old has introduced positive changes in charge of Los Verdiblancos, with his side playing quick, purposeful football, with concise passing and exciting attacking. It was more of the same on Sunday, as they looked the better of the two sides despite the opposition being the Spanish giants Barcelona.
Real Betis have won four times since Sanchez’s appointment, slowly climbing the La Liga table to be 13th after Sunday’s stalemate. And they can’t be blamed for thinking that they should rather have been 12th by beating their illustrious visitors.
Evidently Sanchez is the right man for the Betis job, and the performance on Sunday should give them confidence to build on the Spaniard’s successful start at the Seville club.