Barcelona lost Lionel Messi but found a way to win without him.
Neymar and Pedro scored within two minutes of each other, and Cesc Fabgregas tallied twice in the second half, as Barcelona overcame the loss of Messi to win 4-1 at Real Betis on Sunday in La Liga.
Jorge Molina scored the only goal for Betis, a penalty in second-half stoppage time.
With the win, Barcelona moved three points clear atop the table. Atletico Madrid drew with Villarreal earlier Sunday.
Messi left the match in the 22nd minute, replaced by Andres Iniesta after sustaining an injury in an early challenge. Preliminary reports from Barcelona indicate Messi damaged his femoral biceps and will undergo testing Monday.
Barcelona manager Tata Martino made six changes to the team that won 3-1 at home to AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday. Marc Bartra, Carles Puyol, Martin Montoya, Alex Song, Fabregas and Pedro came in for Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Adriano, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez.
Real Betis, who top Group I in the UEFA Europa League, were coming off a 1-0 win at Vitoria de Guimaraes on Thursday. Domestically, however, Betis have not fared as well.
Winless in six league matches now, Betis remained in last place in La Liga. But heading into the match, the Sevilla-based side's prospects must have seemed positive.
Key Barcelona defenders Pique and Jordi Alba missed out through injury, and then Messi departed through injury in the 22nd minute. The Argentine superstar limped off after an early challenge and was clearly in distress along the touchline before being withdrawn.
Messi, who bagged two goals in the win over AC Milan on Wednesday, has not scored in Barcelona's past five league matches. His most recent league goal came Sept. 28, at Almeria.
By the time Messi left the match, Victor Valdes had already made two vital saves to keep out Betis. The visitors were the better side in the opening stages and nearly went ahead in the 17th minute via Molina, whose shot was saved by Valdes.
One minute later, Valdes raced across his goal to keep out Juan Carlos' close-range header following Alvaro Vadillo's cross from deep on the right.
Instead of taking the lead, though, Betis found themselves facing a two-goal deficit soon after.
Neymar broke the deadlock in the 35th minute, finishing into an empty net following good work from Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas. Two minutes later, Pedro made it 2-0, surging from his own half and racing onto his own ball before curling a shot into the far corner past Guillermo Sara.
Barca nearly scored a third just before half-time, but Pedro bounced his shot wide from Neymar's pass on the left.
Just after the break, Betis momentarily looked to have cut Barcelona's lead in half. Joan Verdu connected sweetly with a volley from outside the box, but his shot hit the outside netting and rolled away to safety.
Moments later, Betis had two more chances in quick succession. First, Bartra made a crucial challenge to deflect Vadillo's shot over the goal. Then, Nono hit the post with a drilled shot.
Once again, though, the hosts were left to rue their missed chances.
Fabregas scored Barcelona's third in the 63rd minute, sweeping into the net after a flowing team move. Iniesta's pass over the top freed Montoya, who squared for Fabregas in the middle.
The third goal killed off the match, but Fabregas added Barcelona's fourth with a header from Dani Alves' in the 79th minute. Molina then scored a consolation for Betis, converting a penalty in stoppage time after Alves had brought down substitute Javier Matilla in the box.
|Real Betis player ratings vs. Barcelona|
|Barcelona player ratings vs. Real Betis|
After the international break, Real Betis play at Sevilla on Sunday, Nov. 24.
Barcelona host Granada on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!