Real Betis were left to rue a dismal refereeing display after nearly putting a dent in Barcelona’s title hopes over the weekend.
Betis went into the game having won just one of their previous six league outings but produced a much-improved performance to give Barca an almighty fright.
They twice led the reigning champions but were pegged back on each occasion before falling to Clement Lenglet’s late goal.
Controversies dent Betis’ hopes of victory
Betis looked in the mood to spring a surprise against Barca and were duly rewarded when Sergio Canales fired them ahead from the penalty spot in the sixth minute.
Frenkie de Jong quickly levelled things up for the visitors, but Nabil Fekir’s fine strike after 26 minutes but Betis back in front.
Sergio Busquets equalised again for Barca on the stroke of half-time, although the goal should have been disallowed due to a foul on Marc Bartra.
Lenglet eventually gave Barca the lead in the 73rd minute, before Fekir was dismissed after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession.
Barca also went down to 10 men when Lenglet was sent-off, but they managed to hold on to secure a fortunate victory.
Betis blast blundering match official
Betis were unhappy with referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez’s performance, justifiably arguing that he had cost them the chance of victory.
He needed the assistance of the Video Assistant Referee to award Betis their early penalty and failed to dismiss Sergio Roberto for a nasty first-half foul on Carles Alena.
“How can that not be a second yellow for Roberto’s foul on Alena?” asked Betis coach Rubi. “Barcelona should have been left with 10 men, there’s no doubt about it.”
Fekir’s subsequent sending-off for dissent bordered on farcical and effectively ended any hopes Betis had of getting themselves back into the game.
The fact that the Spanish Football Federation have dropped Martinez from the next round of La Liga fixtures suggests Betis were right to feel aggrieved.
Upcoming fixtures give Betis hope
The defeat left Betis 13th in the table, nine points adrift of the top six with 15 matches still to play this season.
However, their next three fixtures provide them with a golden opportunity to make some ground on the teams above them in the standings. This would help fulfil the positive expectations generated at the start of the season when star signing Fekir joined and the club secured a prominent online broker as its main sponsor.
Betis travel to Leganes on Sunday, before facing Real Mallorca (H) and Valencia (A) over the subsequent two weekends.
Rubi’s side won each of the reverse fixtures by a 2-1 scoreline and they are perfectly capable of securing the same points return this time around.
The Barca defeat left a sour taste in the Betis camp, but if they can maintain that level of performance their fortunes will soon improve.