The Catalans conquered Benito Villamarin in the recovery of the 17th day with the seals of Raphinha and the returning Lewandowski. Kounde’s own goal comes too late for Betis
Effective, no frills and damned solid. Barça continues its march to the top of La Liga bringing home a new success as heavy as a boulder on a field that is by no means easy, that of Betis. Xavi’s troop succeeds thanks to a convincing performance and the Raphinha-Lewandowski pairing, who places the winning one-two between 65′ and 80′. The Pole, author of the 14th center in 16 appearances, seals a well-deserved success that projects the Catalans momentarily to +8 on Real Madrid, which in 24 hours will face Valencia entrusted to Voro after the separation with Gattuso. A few thrills for the guests only in the final due to an own goal by Koundé which denied Ter Stegen the fifth consecutive clean sheet.
All available for Pellegrini, who reproposed Fekir from the beginning with the aim of closing the first round in the top four. For the Andalusians, strengthened by an amazing journey so far, there was also a vague desire for revenge after the Super Cup semi-final they lost just two weeks ago against the Catalans. On the Blaugrana side, however, the firm intention to extend the positive series and put further pressure on Real Madrid after last weekend’s extension in the standings. To do this, Xavi found that Lewandowski who had been watching for a month due to disqualification, as well as a precious Ferran Torres. The only absence, albeit heavy, that of Dembélé stopped in the pits for a few games.
PEDRI ON FIRE
Immediately intense rhythm on the pitch and scorching atmosphere in the stands, because the Andalusian fans believe in it despite the aggressive attitude of the guests. In fact, the Blaugrana try to command the game and they succeed thanks to the excellent work in the construction phase by De Jong and Pedri. Lewa’s return to the center of the attack instead gives that point of reference which allows the Blaugrana to play deep and vertically. The Andalusians suffer from possession of the opponent’s ball, but try to fight back at every possible opportunity, especially with Fekir and Canales. They are the ones who build the two best chances in the first 45′ which however see Barça touch the net on five occasions, four of which are truly sensational. Two of these happen on Pedri’s feet, who however has to surrender to the reflexes of Rui Silva, very good in the low exit in the 19th minute after a prestigious trick by the Spaniard on Luiz Felipe and Carvalho). The one between the Blaugrana midfielder and Pellegrini’s goalkeeper becomes almost a personal matter when, in the 49th minute, the former unloads a powerful left foot from the center of the area which finds the latter still ready to fly.
HERE WE ARE LEWA
It’s the phase in which the Andalusians seem to have found the formula to limit Xavi’s attack. But the blaugrana find the extra weapon in the raids of Balde, good at assisting first Pedri, then Raphinha. The second assist is the good one, also because it catches the home defense unprepared for a free-kick in the forward area: low shot from the center that cuts out the goalkeeper and defenders and easy support from the Brazilian on the net, who puts Barça ahead after an hour in the 65th minute of battle. A quarter of an hour later the doubling also arrives, this time thanks to Lewandowski, the quickest to intercept a low shot center to turn around in a handkerchief and pass Rui Silva. It’s the safety net, even if the blaugrana decide to complicate their lives in the final minutes by reopening the game with an awkward own goal from Koundé, unlucky in attempting to put the ball towards Ter Stegen.
February 1st – 10.59pm
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