Barcelona Increase La Liga Table Lead with 5-0 Win vs. Real Betis

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IJanuary 21, 2018

Barcelona's Messi, right, celebrates with teammate Suarez after scoring against Betis during the La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Betis at the Villamarin stadium, in Seville, Spain on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
Miguel Morenatti/Associated Press

Barcelona extended their lead at the top of the La Liga table to 11 points after thrashing Real Betis 5-0 on Sunday.

After a goalless first half, the visitors turned on the style after the break and cruised to victory with Ivan Rakitic opening the scoring before Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi both grabbed doubles.

Ernesto Valverde was without the injured Andres Iniesta, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho for the trip to the Estadio Benito Villamarin. The Barca coach therefore opted to start with Nelson Semedo at right-back and Sergi Roberto and Andres Gomes in midfield.

The club's Twitter account shared their lineup:

Barcelona are the top scorers in La Liga this season, while Betis have been the division's entertainers, but neither side could find the breakthrough in an entertaining first half. Andres Guardado had the first chance for the visitors but could only fire wide from outside the box after winning the ball off Roberto.

Roberto then had a good chance after linking up with Suarez in the box. The Uruguayan held the ball up superbly before laying it back to the midfielder, but his shot was high and wide.

Barcelona started to dominate as the half wore on, and Rakitic and Sergio Busquets both tested goalkeeper Antonio Adan while Messi fired an effort into the side-netting. 

The visitors also suffered a blow towards the end of the first half as Thomas Vermaelen was forced off through injury, with the fit-again Samuel Umtiti replacing him.

Rafael Hernandez of Grup 14 said he has been impressive this season:

Barcelona dominated the start of the second half, although Betis did look a threat on the counter and finally made the breakthrough just shy of the hour mark. Suarez sent Rakitic clean through on goal, and he fired underneath Adan and into the back of the net.

Opta showed how the former Sevilla man loves to score against Betis:

The visitors then doubled their lead five minutes later as Messi swept home the second. Busquets dispossessed Fabian Ruiz and slipped the ball through to the Argentina international who fired a fierce shot past Adan.

La Liga writer Andrew Gaffney feared for Betis:

Barca continued to press and grabbed a third through Suarez. A Messi dribble took him to the edge of the area where he slipped in Rakitic, who squared for the former Liverpool man to volley home.

ESPN FC's Samuel Marsden showed how Barcelona are far stronger in the second half of matches:

Messi then added a fourth after being played in by Suarez and dribbled past two defenders before lashing a shot across goal and into the far corner.

The Argentinian continued to thrill, shrugging off the attentions of three players, which drew admiration from the home supporters, per football writer Sid Lowe:

Barcelona weren't quite finished either. Another Messi dribble into the box ended with the forward slipping the ball to Suarez to power into the top corner.

It was another impressive win for Barcelona, with Messi again in scintillating form and causing Betis all sorts of problems. Valverde's side remain unbeaten, and with a big lead at the top of the table, it's difficult to see anyone catching them. 

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