BARCELONA — Andreas Christensen, Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha were on target as Barcelona thrashed 10-man Real Betis 4-0 yesterday to tighten their grip on top spot and moved a step closer to their 27th LaLiga title.
With only six games remaining, Barca recovered from a disappointing midweek loss at Rayo Vallecano and moved to 79 points and extended their lead to 11 points over second-placed Real Madrid, while Betis remain sixth on 49 points.
Christensen opened the scoring for Barcelona in the 14th minute with a point-blank header following a cross from Raphinha.
Barca’s job was made easier by Betis defender Edgar Gonzalez, who came off the bench in the 12th minute to replace an injured Luiz Felipe but was sent off 21 minutes later after seeing two yellow cards for two bad tackles.
The locals made the most of their advantage before the break, scoring twice within three minutes thanks to strikes by Lewandowski and Raphinha.
LaLiga top scorer Lewandowski increased his haul to 19 for the season with a first touch shot from inside the box assisted by Jules Kounde in the 36th minute.
Raphinha had to wait a couple of minutes to celebrate scoring Barca’s third as the assistant referee had initially ruled out his effort for offside before the decision was overturned following a VAR replay.
“It’s always fine to score and assist, but I think I can always do better,” Raphinha told Movistar Plus.
“The last game was very tough, we needed to respond and winning by a large margin was important to have more confidence.
“(Manager) Xavi (Hernandez) warned us and we know what we can do and what we lacked against Rayo. We needed a little more attitude, needed to stay with the ball, and if we want to win the league it has to be like that in every game.”
Barca took their foot off the pedal after the break, comfortable with seeing out the game, but managed to extend their lead thanks to an own-goal by defender Guido Rodriguez, who scored while trying to clear an Ansu Fati cross in the six-yard-box.
With the win secured, 15-year-old winger Lamine Yamal became Barca’s youngest ever debutant when he was brought off the bench by coach Xavi. — Reuters