Gerardo Martino will probably not be all that thrilled with his team's performance, but in the end, Barcelona did enough to defeat Real Betis 3-1 at the Camp Nou. Messi scored twice for the Blaugrana but it was a Jordi Figueras' own-goal that ended up being the match winner.
Alexis Sánchez single-handedly earned a penalty in the 14th minute, driving into the Real Betis box, dancing around several defenders and making a series of quick direction changes until he was tripped up by Jordi Figueras. There didn't seem to be much contact, but it was enough for the referee to point to the spot. Lionel Messi didn't care of course and happily beat Antonio Adán to give Barca a 1-0 lead.
Messi just missed a second goal in the 42nd minute, dancing into space on the edge of the Betis 18-yard-box and firing a rising shot that went just wide of the post.
Betis looked good early in the second half, putting Barca under heavy pressure and keeping them off the ball at an impressive rate. Unfortunately, Betis certainly showed a lot of heart, their chronic inability to take advantage of their chances -- most notably mis-hitting crosses towards wide-open attackers -- helped fans understand why they're on the verge of relegation.
Their best chance came in the 65th minute, when Alfred N'Diaye's short-range shot took a wicked deflection off Marc Barta, forcing Jose Manuel Pinto to make a reflex save. Fortunately for the Blaugrana, the Barca goalkeeper was up to the task and pushed the ball over the crossbar.
All those wasted chances came back to haunt Betis in the 67th minute when Pedro's speculative shot into the box deflected off Figueras and beat Adán to make it 2-0.
The two-goal advantage wouldn't last long. Betis fought right back and got on the board a minute after the Barca goal thanks to a clever shot from Rubén Castro. The striker's diagonal run pulled Pinto and three different Barca players towards the right side of the box, allowing Castro to send a shot back across his body and past all four players to cut Barca's lead back to a single goal.
Barca would eventually pull away, though, thanks to a second penalty call against Betis in the 85th minute. Neymar's cross into the box struck the hand of Amaya and the referee pointed to the spot. Adán saved Messi's penalty attempt but left a massive rebound that Messi quickly jumped on and put past the Betis goalkeeper.
Barcelona: Pinto, Alves, Mascherano, Bartra, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi (Song 88'), Iniesta (Fàbregas 79'), Pedro (Neymar 79'), Messi, Sánchez
Goals: Messi (15', 86'), Figueras (o.g. 67')
Real Betis: Adán, Amaya, Carlos, Figueras, Juanfran, Non, N'Diaye, Reyes, Baptistao (Rodriguez 83'), Vadillo (Molina 61'), Cedric (Castro 61')
Goals: Castro (68')