First Division - Day 24

Barcelona 5 - Betis 1

Barcelona: Víctor Valdés; Belletti (Gabri 65'), Oleguer, Puyol, Sylvinho; Iniesta (Motta 70'), Edmilson, Deco; Larsson (Messi 77'), Eto'o, Ronaldinho. 4-3-3.
Betis: Doblas; Oscar López, Melli, Juanito, Luis Fernández (Varela 46'); Arzu, Rivera; Joaquín, Edu, Tardelli; Dani. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Barça: Belletti, Sylvinho, Deco, Larsson, Ronaldinho for Márquez, Van Bronckhorst, Van Bommel, Giuly, Ezquerro / Betis: Rivera, Edu for Capi, Robert.

1-0. 17. Larsson. Slid ball in on far post after Eto'o crossed in from right wing.
2-0. 28. Melli (own goal). Lifted ball past own keeper trying to cut out Eto'o.
3-0. 32. Melli (own goal). Deflected ball past own keeper from Ronaldinho free kick.
4-0. 58. Ronaldinho. Struck set piece free kick which Doblas couldn't keep out.
4-1. 62. Joaquín. Curled long free kick round wall and in to bottom corner.
5-1. 85. Messi. Combined with Eto'o to beat keeper at second attempt.

Barcelona got back to winning ways after two defeats in a row, beating Betis 5-1 to consolidate their place at the top of the table. Ronaldinho returned to the side after a two match ban and Deco also returned after an injury, with Eto'o up front making his first appearance in the Nou Camp since the Africa cup. It took them a bit of time to get going though, and Valdés had to save from Tardelli and Juanito had a penalty appeal turned down before Ronaldinho and Eto'o combined to set up Larsson for the first goal.

Larsson and Eto'o both had chances to extend the lead, the first with a header wide from Ronaldinho's cross and the second with a shot which Doblas blocked at point blank range. Valdés was in action again to keep out Arzu, but soon afterwards Barça went two up when Melli got ahead of Eto'o to reach Ronaldinho's pass only to lift the ball past his own keeper. And just four minutes later the unfortunate defender was in the wrong place at the wrong time again, Ronaldinho's free kick deflecting off the defensive wall and hitting him on the back to bounce past the wrong footed Doblas and in to the net.

Eto'o should have got a fourth shortly before the break when he controlled Deco's cross only to shoot over the bar with the goal at his mercy. But early in the second half Ronaldinho beat Doblas with a free kick, the keeper getting to the ball but only capable of turning it in to his own net.

Betis didn't give up though, and Joaquín caught Valdés flat footed with a long free kick which he squeezed round the two man wall and in to the bottom corner. However the keeper made up for his mistake with good stops from Edu and Varela as the Andalusians tried to get back in to the game.

With one eye on Wednesday night's Champions League game at Chelsea, Rijkaard started to make substitutions, bringing on Gabri, Motta and then Messi, the last two after lay-offs for injuries. And with five minutes to go the Betis defence failed to clear a long punt by Valdés, Eto'o collecting the ball and running on goal before being brought down. The referee played the advantage rule though as Messi picked up the loose ball, and the youngster ran on to score in off the post after Doblas stopped his first shot.