Luis Suarez scored twice as a controversial Neymar penalty almost overshadowed Barcelona 4-0 win over Real Betis on Lionel Messi 500th game for Barcelona.
Barcelona were without Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta in their line-up for Betis’ visit. The visitors meanwhile, opted for just one change from their derby stalemate with Sevilla a fortnight ago as Ricky van Wolfswinkel replaced Joaquin on the left wing.
Victories for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid earlier in the day meant only a win would will do for the Catalans, who wore the world champions emblem on their shirts for the first time and presented the five trophies they won over the past 12 months prior to kick-off.
Barca started the game with the lion’s share of possession, but Betis put in a mighty shift to keep the Catalans at bay and almost nicked a goal on the counterattack, had Dani Ceballos showed more composure in his one-on-one with Claudio Bravo after he danced past Dani Alves and then Mathieu.
Refereeing controversies as evident in Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Real Sociedad earlier in the day was not different at Camp Nou as Inaki Bikandi Garrido questionably awarded Barca a penalty for Adan’s clash with Messi in the box, although the goalkeeper’s fist cleanly got to the ball first, his follow-through catching the Argentine. Neymar appeared to have taken a second touch when striking the ball, having slipped. Barca once more enjoyed the rub of the green and Heiko Westermann hooked the rebound over his own line for the opener.
Betis’ evening then went from bad to worse, starting with both of their centre-backs Bruno Gonzalez and Westermann being forced off with injuries, before Messi capped off his milestone with a tap-in from Neymar’s cutback at the byline.
After the break, Barcelona continued rolling and just one minute in they made it 3-0 through Suárez in what could be considered a Betis giveaway having allowed Busquets to swoop in and slide a pass into Suárez.
The home side two minutes after the hour mark had two gilt-edged chances to extend the lead to four, but Neymar struck the post with an effort and an open shot moments later from Messi was saved. Adán was called into action again in the 69th minute to tip away a Messi free kick that looked destined for the back of the net.
Betis’ best chance at goal came in the 80th minute when a corner kick fell to Ricky van Wolfswinkel at the back post, but the Dutchman scuffed his chance. Barcelona eventually broke through and got their fourth goal in the 84th minute with some superb team passing that was finished off by a Neymar backheel for Suárez to sweep home from close range for his second on the night.