Betis fans bow down as Messi drives Barcelona to la Liga title
The Argentine was spectacular once again on a night where even the opposing fans had to relish in his greatness.
Lionel Messi sprinkled his genius thick and heavy over the Benito Villamarin’s pitch on Sunday, but his final contribution was transcendent.
The Argentine striker, La Liga’s top goalscorer, the best player in the world, and yes, in the history of football, completed his hat-trick with a quite astonishing lob to help Barcelona complete a 4-1 win at Real Betis.
Messi’s goals sent Barcelona 10 points clear of second place Athletico Madrid, taking a decisive step towards the title, but for those watching, the eighth wonder of the world was more important, more significant than the big picture.
Real Betis fans proved that as they rose to give Messi a standing ovation, even as their team were thrashed.
“I don’t remember a night like this (being applauded by rival supporters), I’m really grateful for the way the fans responded,” said Messi, having completed his 33rd league hat-trick. “I was just lucky that they went in and that we got the three points.”
When it comes to talking, the Barcelona captain can be modest to a fault, but his magical display spoke for itself.
Even as Barcelona recorded just 43.9 per cent possession, their lowest in a league game since the 2004-05 season, it didn’t matter as Ernesto Valverde’s tactics worked – and so did their cheat code, Messi.
Valverde opted for a new set-up and a new line-up. Philippe Coutinho was dropped for Arturo Vidal and Barcelona switched from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield.
Although the Brazilian’s display against Olympique Lyon in the Champions League on Wednesday was an improvement on his recent form, Valverde didn’t believe Coutinho was ready for a game of this intensity. And he was right.
Instead the midfield diamond helped Barcelona to tussle with Betis in midfield, and even if at times the Catalans were losing that battle, having four central players at least disrupted the hosts’s game at the Benito Villamarin.
Vidal, playing behind strike duo Messi and Suarez, was a disruptive, combative presence, just as was asked of him by Valverde.