Barcelona have secured a spot in next season’s Champions League, with Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Real Betis getting the job done for Xavi’s team.
Ansu Fati opened the scoring with 15 minutes to go but his effort was quickly wiped out by Marc Bartra, and just as it looked like the two sides would have to share a point, up popped Jordi Alba with a thumping volley with one of the last kicks of the game.
Betis had the game’s first real chance through Juanmi, who got the better of Dani Alves but couldn’t keep his shot down as he tried to lob stand-in goalkeeper Neto, who was starting in place of the unwell Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Ferran Torres came close to opening the scoring soon after but just couldn’t grow enough to meet Ousmane Dembele’s cross. The Frenchman’s crossing was a real problem for Betis and German Pezzella had to clear one off the line after a bit of penalty box pinball.
Betis lost their own starting goalkeeper as Claudio Bravo limped off injured early on, but his replacement, Rui Silva, got into the swing of things almost immediately with an excellent save to push Ronald Araujo’s thumping header on to the bar.
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Barcelona were thanking the woodwork on the half-hour mark when Guido Rodriguez’s low drive from the edge of the box looked to have beaten Neto but came crashing back off the post.
The start to the second half was a little slower as both sides exchanged scrappy fouls. Juanmi eventually got himself through on goal but an excellent block from Araujo kept the scores level on the hour mark.
Chances kept flying in for Juanmi but Neto got himself in front of each and every one of them, with the surprise starter shining on a rare La Liga appearance.
Against the run of play, Barcelona snatched the lead through Ansu Fati, whose scruffy effort from the edge of the box trickled into the bottom corner just seconds after he came off the bench.
Bets wouldn’t be behind for long, however. Former Barcelona man Marc Bartra headed home from a free-kick to set up a nervy final ten minutes.
As the clock continued to tick, it looked like a 1-1 draw was on the cards, only for Alba to save the day with a screaming volley from a Dani Alves cross which thundered into the top corner and secured the win.
Fati scored almost immediately / Fran Santiago/GettyImages
GK: Neto – 8/10 – Did a great job of filling in for Ter Stegen, and some fans on Twitter were even calling for him to start more often. Made a fantastic save to deny Juanmi but saw the whole move struck off for a foul anyway.
RB: Dani Alves – 5/10 – Did a great job when he could get close to the ball but looked very slow at times. Showed his age as Juanmi burned past him repeatedly.
CB: Ronald Araujo – 7/10 – Put up a good fight at the back and was unlucky not to open the scoring with his header. A top block on Juanmi on the hour mark.
CB: Eric Garcia – 6/10 – Excellent on the ball as usual but his defending was pretty underwhelming… as usual.
LB: Jordi Alba – 6/10 – Some underwhelming crosses in the first half but an absolute screamer of a goal to win the game.
DM: Sergio Busquets – 5/10 – So important to this team but also such an issue. Plays far too slow for a side looking to fly forward.
CM: Frenkie de Jong – 5/10 – Does anyone really know what De Jong does? He’s a fantastic footballer but something just isn’t working for him at Camp Nou. Looked tired and flustered at times.
CM: Gavi – 6/10 – Sensational work rate but found it hard to pull the strings and break Betis’ defence down.
RW: Ousmane Dembele – 6/10 – Some nice crosses but seemed like that was his only party trick. Would beat his man, run to the byline and cross without even looking. Caused a lot of problems but became a little predictable.
ST: Ferran Torres – 4/10 – Couldn’t get into the game at all but wasn’t helped by Barcelona’s desire to cross every time they got near him. Was never going to beat Betis’ defenders in the air.
LW: Memphis Depay – 5/10 – Did his best to run at his defenders but his end product was lacking.
SUB: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (66′ for Depay) – 6/10
SUB: Adama Traore (74′ for Dembele) – 5/10
SUB: Ansu Fati (75′ for Torres) – 7/10
SUB: Riqui Puig (80′ for Gavi) – 6/10
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