Barcelona claimed maximum points during their opening fixture of the 2017/18 La Liga campaign with a 2-0 win over Real Betis with the first courtesy of visitors defender Alin Tosca, who poked the ball into his own net, and a second from Sergi Roberto during a night in which football was only the second thought on everyone’s minds. 

The evening started in emotional circumstances following the atrocities that took place in the city and surrounding Catalunya on Thursday, with all of those in blue and red displaying ‘Barcelona’ in place of the usual shirt identification and observing a moment of silence before proceedings commenced. 

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But as things began the majority of those inside the understandably emptier and quieter than usual Camp Nou were almost given the perfect start as former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu latched onto the end of Roberto’s cross from the left-hand side, but the young Spaniard was only able to turn his scuffed volley wide of the right upright after great defensive pressure. 

The early chance was just a taste of things to come in the opening 15 minutes as the hosts continued to dominate possession in the opposition half, however the Real Betis counter attacking structure remained strong until Lionel Messi was hacked down after squirming his way through three green and white shirts. 

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From the resulting free-kick just outside the Beticos area the Argentine magician was inches away from putting his side into the lead, with a whipped effort which gently kissing the roof of the the net after fizzing past the stranded Antonio Adan. 

As the minutes ticked by the Barcelona dominance continued, however again clear chances were hard to come by, with Messi the only player to fashion a notable shot on goal after a signature bending attempt clipped the outside of the left-hand post. 

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Less than 10 minutes later the 30-year-old then continued his duel with the Real Betis woodwork as an expertly taken free-kick was this time met by the left-hand post, but it would not be long before Barca’s persistence was rewarded. 

Deulofeu, as he had been doing throughout the opening 30 minutes, found space on the right flank and surged into the Beticos area before firing a low cross across the face of goal which faintly glanced the outstretched toe of left-back Tosca and past the spread Adan to give the Catalonians their well deserved lead.

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However, moments later it looked as though the hosts were to be pegged back, with Sergio Leon latching onto a beautifully guided ball in behind Javier Mascherano and bearing down on Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal, only for the veteran to somehow make up the lost ground and spurn the attack with an inch-perfect last ditch tackle. A feat that justly received rapturous standing applause from all four corners of the Camp Nou. 

Things got even better for the Catalonians inside the amphitheatre of excellence just moments after their man’s defensive heroics, as within a blink of an eye the hosts had doubled their lead thanks again mainly to Deulofeu’s wide play. 

From the aftermath of Mascherano’s stunning challenge the 23-year-old picked the ball up and attacked the backtracking Betis defence before slipping in fellow midfielder Roberto who tapped home from 12 yards, rounding off a perfect 60 seconds for the home side.

The second half started with a slightly more subdued atmosphere following the chaotic ending to the first, with midfield sparring the only highlight of the opening 15 minutes. 

That was until Messi reunited his friendship with Adan’s right upright after being found in space on the edge of the Betis area and unleashing a curling effort towards goal, but the sublime playmaker was only left to be left disappointed by the woodwork for the third time of the evening.

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Following the maestro’s chance the game’s tempo then dropped again and first-match fatigue began to surface, particularly by Roberto whose lackadaisical back pass fell into the path of Nahuel Leiva allowing the visitors an opportunity to trouble the host’s backline for the first time of the half. 

But, the young wide man completely wasted the opportunity by deciding against slipping in the free Leon and selfishly blasted the ball over Ter Stegen’s crossbar, much to the anger of Beticos boss Quique Setien.

As the La Liga clash entered the final 10 minutes it was again time for Messi to reacquaint himself with the post, this time being denied from the upright after a thunderbolt of an effort from 25 yards – an attempt which wouldn’t have caused a shock if it had ripped the stanchions from the turf. 

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But the opening fixture of the 2017/18 season was a night in which the magician was not to get onto the scoresheet, however the Catalonian giants proved they are still able to switch up the gears even with notable stars missing from the starting XI. 

Whether it is enough to trouble Real Madrid in the long run, however, remains to be seen. 


  For all the news, views and match reaction following Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Real Betis follow ?@joejournosun and ?@90min_Football on Twitter. 


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