FC Barcelona continued its triumphal La Liga run with a narrow 1-2 win at the Benito Vilammarín in a match where Lionel Messi finally broke Gerd Muller’s record for most goals in a single calendar year. It was far from an easy victory as Betis performed exceptionally and had enough chances to get a better result, but Barça’s players showed their champion mentality by grinding out these all important three points, thus keeping the distance to their closest followers in the standings – 6 points over AtléticoMadrid, who travel to Camp Nou next week, and 11 over Real Madrid.
Here are the ratings for last night’s match:
Victor Valdés – 7.5
Had no chance in the Betis goal and came up with some crucial saves in the second half to prevent Betis from equalizing.
Jordi Alba – 6.5
Had a decent if unspectacular performance overall on both ends of the pitch, but was responsible for the Betis goal as he played Ruben Castro onside.
Carles Puyol – 6.5
Was solid overall but his lack of speed was a bit exposed in the Betis goal and he had to leave the pitch after 45 minutes for precautionary reasons.
Gerard Piqué – 7
Was very lucky to get away with a handball that could potentially have got him sent off early in the first half, but had a solid match apart from that, with quite a few crucial tackles and interceptions to prevent danger.
Adriano Correia – 6.5
He was an excellent attacking outlet down the right flank, but was a bit shaky in defense, beaten by Betis’s wingers quite a few times.
Sergio Busquets – 8.5
Had a sensational performance as his ability to anticipate and break up play as well as picking a pass even in the tightest of spaces was essential in the way the team managed to hold off the Betis pressure. He barely put a foot wrong all match long.
Xavi Hernandez – 7.5
Extremely efficient with his passing as usual, but delegated the creative duties to Iniesta, Messi and co. His distribution was essential as always, though.
Cesc Fabregas – N/A
Had to leave after 10 minutes due to injury.
Andrés Iniesta – 8.5
Had an amazing performance, oozing class as always with his amazing touch and dribbling skills and he also assisted both goals, the second one with a spectacular backheel flick.
Pedro Rodriguez – 6.5
Worked hard and combined well with his attacking teammates, but his confidence in front of goal remains short. He desperately needs a goal to return to his best.
Lionel Messi – 9
The hero of the night as usual with two wonderful goals that made him reach the record for most goals scored in a single calendar year, with 86 now.
Alexis Sanchez – 7
Came into the match for Fabregas after 10 minutes and put in a decent shift, his movement and diagonal runs opened up space for his teammates, namely Messi, to run into but he couldn’t offer a whole lot on the ball, struggling to get past his marker often.
Javier Mascherano – 6.5
Came in for Puyol at half-time and was very lucky not to score an own goal as his header hit the post. He struggled to keep up with the Betis pressure but eventually got the job done.
Thiago Alcantara – N/A
Came in too late to make an impact.
Editor’s note: These ratings have been written by Manuel Traquete. He is a lifelong FC Barcelona supporter and a freelance football writer who shares his thoughts @Manueltraquete.
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