First Division - Day 4

Betis 3 - Barcelona 0

Betis: Prats; Varela, Juanito, Arzu, Luis Fernández; Ito, Marcos Assunçao (Fernando 86'); Joaquín, Capi, Denilson (Benjamín 77'); Alfonso (Casas 83'). 4-2-3-1. Barcelona: Víctor Valdés; Puyol, De Boer, Fernando Navarro; Mendieta, Xavi, Cocu, Motta (Gabri 46'); Saviola (Geovanni 62'), Luis Enrique; Kluivert. 3-4-2-1.

Team changes: Betis: Ito for Rivas / Barcelona: No change.

1-0. 26. Alfonso (penalty). After Capi brought down by Víctor Valdés.
2-0. 67. Joaquín. Took pass from Capi on right and cut in past De Boer to score.
3-0. 84. Varela. Picked up ball in own half and ran past five men to beat keeper.

Betis put in another majestic performance to defeat a tired Barcelona by 3-0. The match was switched to Recreativo's Colombino stadium after the Sevilla based side's ground was closed for disciplinary reasons, and there was some controversy before the game as local based Barcelona supporters were unable to buy tickets, even though some 3,000 places remained. Van Gaal put out the same side which had made the gruelling trip to Turkey midweek, and it seemed to pay off as Saviola broke through and shot just wide in the opening minutes. However midway through the first half Barça keeper Víctor Valdés brought down Capi in the area, and ex Barcelona striker took his revenge on his old side with a purposefully struck penalty.

Barcelona were unable to reply against a well ordered defence, with Arzu dropping back for this match to play in the back four in place of the injured Rivas. Nerves were frayed, and an incident involving Brazilians Assunçao and Motta almost developed into something bigger as other players got involved. Both men were booked, and at the break Van Gaal replaced Motta with Gabri.

Then twenty minutes into the second half Capi won the ball in midfield and sent Joaquín away down the right wing. The Spanish international didn't think twice and ran on to cut in past Frank De Boer and shoot low past Víctor. Van Gaal responded by making his third substitution, putting on Gerard for Xavi, and soon after the new man sent a shot just wide of the post. But then came the goal of the night and maybe of the season after Prats threw the ball out to Varela just inside his own half. The young full back set off on a run which left five defenders stranded, and he finished off with a shot which any forward would be proud of.

Betis had won in style, and new manager Victor Fernández could not have got off to a better start. The vagaries of the calendar had pitched them against the best right at the beginning, but they have come through with flying colours and they may be on for something big this season. With a game in hand they draw level with Barcelona, who see their run of four wins in a row come to a crashing end.