Real Betis vs. Barcelona: Score, Analysis and Grades
Barcelona defeated Real Betis 2-1, but the headline from this match belongs to Lionel Messi.
Messi needed just 25 minutes to score two goals and break Gerd Muller's record for goals in a calendar year, and Barcelona dominated the match early, both through possession and the goal line.
But Betis refused to bow out without a fight, and a goal in the 38th minute ensured that the second half would still be competitive.
That was certainly the case, and Betis threatened to equalize on several occasions. The woodwork kept Barcelona ahead three times in the second half.
The final 45 minutes ultimately did not produce any goals. Barcelona's reign over La Liga will continue, while Messi moves closer to going down as the greatest footballer in history.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona: A+
The little genius has started to make a habit out of breaking records in thrilling fashion. He scored a hat-trick against Malaga to break Muller's record for goals in a European season, and now he has a brace to push past the legendary striker for goals in a calendar year.
It was a fantastic first-half performance, and while the second 45 minutes were not of the same quality, Messi's history-making match earns him the highest mark possible.
Ruben Castro, Real Betis: B+
When playing Barcelona, a team needs its best goal-scorer to get on the score sheet. Castro pulled through and coolly finished a golden opportunity near the end of the first half.
This kept the game close, and there were multiple occasions where Betis was unlucky not to grab an equalizer. Castro's goal ensured that the match was competitive until the final whistle.
Andres Iniesta, Barcelona: A
It is fitting that Iniesta assisted both of Messi's goals in this match. Along with Xavi Hernandez, these players have been the engine behind Barcelona's heralded attack over the past several years.
His creativity was on full display during the play that set up Messi's record-breaking goal. He cleverly rolled the ball back towards Messi, and the Argentine's accurate finish was a typical Barcelona goal.
Beñat, Real Betis: B
The holding midfielder has excelled as a playmaker this season and has played an instrumental role in Betis' successful league campaign thus far. However, he failed to have a significant impact on the match.
He was constantly searching for the pass that would pierce through the Barcelona back line but was unable to find it. Neither Beñat nor Betis should be ashamed of their performance, but they ultimately did not do enough to earn points.
Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona: B
Xavi did not have the same impact on this match as Messi and Iniesta, but he still played well. Barça dominated possession with their hypnotic passing, and the midfield maestro once again played his part in executing the team's tactics.
While there is little to criticize about Xavi's performance, there is not much to praise either. He performed his duties admirably but not exceptionally.
Barcelona will take the field next in a Copa Del Rey fixture against Cordoba on December 12. Their next La Liga match will be a showdown with second-place Atletico Madrid on December 16.
Betis will continue their Copa Del Rey campaign this week against Las Palmas before returning to league matches against Celta Vigo.
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