Real Betis inflicted a first defeat on Barcelona in the Xavi Hernandez era on Saturday afternoon, as Juanmi’s second half strike was enough to snatch all three points at Camp Nou.
The main issue from the match, however, will certainly be the welfare of youngster Gavi, who suffered a worrying problem early on.
A first half lacking in rhythm and momentum was overshadowed by the 17-year-old’s forced departure from the field of play after 35 minutes. Gavi was struck in the head by Hector Bellerin’s clearance from close range and, minutes later, struggled to keep on his feet when on the ball. The prodigal talent was subsequently stretchered off to the sound of his name being chanted by the entirety of Camp Nou.
Barcelona generally failed to get a grip on proceedings and construct cohesive moves going forward, encouraging Betis to come out and play. The away side had the ball in the back of the net soon after the restart, although Juanmi’s well-taken finish was eventually ruled out for offside.
Xavi’s side woke up during the second half, predominantly courtesy of the introductions of Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong, although it was a Betis substitute that made the difference with just over ten minutes remaining. Former Barcelona man Cristian Tello showed great composure and alertness after coming onto the field, teeing up Juanmi to round off a blistering counter attack with a clinical finish.
That goal proved decisive in the match as the Blaugrana lose for the first time under Xavi. The defeat leaves Barcelona seventh in La Liga, six points off even the top five, while Betis rise into the top three.
Here’s how the Barça players rated on the day.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 5/10 – Looked on course for a clean sheet as VAR intervened early in the second half, although couldn’t keep out Junami’s eventual effort.
Sergino Dest (RB) – 4/10 – Struggled to contain Betis’ strong left-hand side, looking really disconcerted at times. Really poor defending against Betis’ fatal counter.
Ronald Araujo (CB) – 7/10 – A dominant presence at the back, regularly towering over his opposition while also showing fantastic pace to cover colleagues and make some vital interventions in threatening situations.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – 7/10 – Proved an imposing figure to stifle the Betis forward line, while also distributing the ball nicely.
Jordi Alba (LB) – 7/10 – Showed his experience with a really solid defensive contribution throughout and surged up the left flank with typical dynamism, although failed to provide a decisive output on a milestone night.
Sergio Busquets (DM) – 7/10 – So good positionally, reading the game to dictate proceedings in his typical classy and languid style.
Nico Gonzalez (CM) – 6/10 – Great strength, intensity and composure in the centre of the pitch and, despite making a couple of clumsy challenges, did well to break up play and drive forward.
Gavi (CM) – 6/10 – A little terrier in midfield throughout the early stages of the contest but was worryingly stretchered off after sustaining a head injury in the first half.
Abde Ezzalzouli (RW) – 6/10 – Brilliant work rate to showcase a really competent defensive side to his game, managing five ball recoveries, but couldn’t quite convert his threat into something tangible on the front foot.
Memphis Depay (ST) – 3/10 – Often isolated up top and, more worryingly, just so passive in his pressing and willingness to float around and make things happen.
Philippe Coutinho (LW) – 5/10 – Ran around energetically and looked threatening early on but, bizarrely, completely simmered down as time passed.
Riqui Puig (CM) – 6/10 – Kept the ball well enough but never really looked capable of providing the same penetrative influence as a Gavi or Pedri could.
Ousmane Dembele (LW) – 7/10 – His introduction brought with it an immediate injection of intensity and danger. Barcelona looked a different team with him on the pitch.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 6/10 – Introduced more control and a more progressive attitude in midfield.
Gerard Pique (CB) – N/A
Luuk de Jong (ST) – N/A