Barcelona increase pressure on Real Madrid with win over Betis

Sports Desk, Feb 1 (EFE).- LaLiga leaders FC Barcelona topped Real Betis 2-1 Wednesday to improve to 50 points, 8 better than defending champions Real Madrid halfway through the season.

The Blancos have a game in hand and can narrow the gap to 5 points with a victory Thursday over 14th-place Valencia.

Betis remain sixth in the table with 31 points, despite having won only three of their last nine games in LaLiga amid a disappointing run that has also seen the collapse of their bid for a second straight Copa del Rey title.

Wednesday’s match at the Benito Villamarin in Seville came three weeks after Barcelona prevailed over Betis on penalties in the Spanish Super Cup semifinal in Riyadh.

The visitors dominated possession from the start, but the score remained 0-0 at the break as the Betis defense limited scoring opportunities and goalkeeper Rui Silva denied Raphinha and Pedri (twice).

Raphinha’s apparent goal in the 33rd minute was disallowed for offside.

Pedri tested Silva again early in the first half, minutes before Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was called into action for the first time to deal with an anemic strike from Nabil Fekir.

The breakthrough came in the 65th minute, when Raphinha scored from point-blank range.

Robert Lewandowski, returning from a three-game ban, made it 2-0 in the 80th minute with his LaLiga-best 14th goal of the campaign and his 19th overall since coming over to Barcelona from Bayern Munich last summer.

The match looked to be settled until Barcelona defender Jules Kounde inadvertently put the ball in his own net while trying to clear a cross into the box.

Buoyed by the stroke of luck, Betis pressed hard for an equalizer, but the Catalan club hung on to claim all 3 points.

EFE agr/dr

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