An injury-time goal from Seydou Keita saved Barça from defeat against Real Betis in Pep Guardiola’s final league match in charge of the team. Sergio Busquets headed Barça into a ninth-minute lead from Xavi’s corner but things became more complicated for Barça after Dani Alves was sent off early in the second half. Ruben Castro scored twice in three minutes to put Betis ahead and it looked like they would hold on until Keita rose to head home Montoya’s cross in the 92nd minute.
With Pinto injured Valdés returned between the posts with the objective of not conceding three goals in order to ensure the zamora trophy, while there was also a start for Ibrahim Afellay on the left wing. With little for either team to play for the game was open from the beginning,
Pedro had the first shot on goal after cutting inside from the right but Betis keeper Casto made a comfortable save by the post. Then in the 8th minute Xavi played a one-two with Messi, causing hesitation between Brazilian centre back Paulao and Casto and Barça won a corner. Xavi swung it over and Busquets jumped at the near post to flick a header over Casto into the far corner.
With the lead Barça looked comfortable though there was a lack of incisiveness in attack. Xavi curled a free kick just wide and Adriano forced a diving save from Casto on the half hour but there was a feeling of going through the motions. Messi was particularly quiet only waking up a couple of times in the first half but his runs came to nothing. At the other end Valdés was not troubled, mainly due to the magnificent work of Mascherano in intercepting practically everything.
In the second half Betis began to trouble our defence a bit more though Keita had the first goal chance on 52 minutes with a low shot after Pedro forced the ball through from the left but Casto again got down well to save. Valdés then had to make his first save coming out to save at Ruben Castro’s feet, but then a minute later Alves received his second yellow card for a messy swipe at Jefferson Montero. It was not the smartest action from the Brazilian and this will no doubt do little to quell the growing rumours that Alves may be on his way out this summer.
Afellay came off and Montoya came on to fill in for Alves, but Barça were looking nervy. In the 68th minute left back Nacho got forward in space on the left, as the Betis left back looked to cross Mascherano came steaming across to intercept but the ball took a deflection off the Argentinian defender and Valdés was fortunate to get in the way as it could easily have been an own goal.
Barça could only hold on for another three minutes. Nacho sent an enormous pass forward from deep in the Betis half, substitute Santa Cruz got a slight flick with his head and Castro was through on his own to lift the ball over Valdés for the equalizer. Betis grew in confidence and in the 75th minute three quick passes drew Barça’s defence open and Castro received the ball in space and shot swiftly past Valdés.
Suddenly the zamora was in serious trouble but Barça began to find the ball again and restore some stability. Betis preferred to defend the lead than to press for a third but they would pay at the end. It was nearly Messi, but his free kick in the 91st minute hit the outside of the post. But perhaps it was fitting that it should be Pep’s favourite who saved the team from defeat at the very end, leaping spectacularly to head home Montoya’s excellent cross from the right.
A draw was probably a fair result on the 90 minutes. Barça lacked the intensity of other games though there was a very good performances from Mascherano again at the back. Not much more to say apart from to congratulate Valdés for the zamora award, Messi’s pichichi will be confirmed tomorrow unless the Mallorca goalkeeper has a really really bad day against the kiss-my-thigh poseur.
Barça: Valdés 6, Alves 5, Piqué 6, Mascherano 8, Adriano 7; Xavi 7 (Iniesta m83, –), Busquets 7.5, Keita 7, Pedro 7 (Tello m77, 6), Messi 6, Afellay 6 (Montoya m58, 7)
Goals: m9 Busquets 0-1, m71 Castro 1-1, m74 Castro 2-1, m92 Keita 2-2.
Barça yellow cards: m32 Alves, m55 Alves (2nd =red)