Second-half goals from Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski sealed a 2-1 win away at Real Betis on Wednesday as Barcelona moved eight points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the LaLiga standings.
Raphinha opened the scoring from close range in the 65th minute and Lewandowski added his 23rd of the season in all competitions 10 minutes from time to seal the three points. Barcelona defender Jules Kounde's late own goal gave Betis hope, but the home side could not find an equaliser despite applying pressure in the final stages of the game.
Barca's winning streak in LaLiga now stands at four games and they are building a healthy lead over second-placed Real Madrid, who host Valencia on Thursday with the chance to cut the gap.
JUMP TO: Best/worst performers | Highlights & notable moments | Postgame quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. No clean sheet but Barcelona keep rolling closer to points record
Barca had won their last three league games 1-0 heading into Wednesday's game at the Estadio Benito Villamarin, and that scoreline looked likely again when Raphinha gave them a second-half lead after quick thinking from Frenkie de Jong to take a smart free kick and good work from Alejandro Balde.
Lewandowski then doubled Barca's lead in the 80th minute. The Polish striker had looked off all night to that point -- and has done since the World Cup -- but he reacted quickly to a loose ball in the box to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Only Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, with 31 and 25 goals respectively, have scored more than him in all competitions from teams in Europe's top five leagues.
Kounde's own goal -- just the seventh Barca have conceded in 19 league games this season -- gave Betis late hope, but the Blaugrana once again showed their new-found resilience to hold off coach Manuel Pellegrini's side to secure another important three points.
At the halfway point of the season, Barcelona are on track for 100 points. Only two other teams have hit that in LaLiga: Real Madrid in 2011-12 and Barcelona in 2012-13.
2. A goal for Raphinha's confidence
With Ousmane Dembele set for a spell on the sidelines with a thigh injury, Raphinha was handed another chance on the right of Barca's attack. For large parts of the game, the Brazilian looked like a player short of confidence, and his preference to come inside onto his left foot rarely posed too many problems.
But there were also bright moments.
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His first-half pass to Pedri, fed through the lines, should have led to a goal and then, after the break, he opened the scoring. It was not a goal for the ages, but it could give him the boost he needs ahead of a busy February schedule.
With Dembele missing, Barca have needed the former Leeds United forward to step up. His goal on Wednesday was his fifth of the season since joining Barca for €55 million. Curiously, all of his goals have come away from Camp Nou.
3. Betis miss chance to close gap in Champions League race
Betis could have moved level with Atletico Madrid in fourth on the LaLiga table with a win, but this performance suggests they will come up short in their quest to qualify for the Champions League. Real Sociedad and Atletico will probably be out of their reach.
Striker Borja Iglesias complained after the game that the referee had favoured Barca, but Betis did not do enough to take a point. It was their goalkeeper Rui Silva who had been the busier, making one excellent save from Pedri in each half, and Barca who had the majority of the possession.
As is always the case with Betis, they had their moments. Sergio Canales and Nabil Fekir can create something from nothing and they will win more than they lose. But will they win enough to challenge the top four?
Best and worst performers
Best: Pedri, Barcelona
The midfielder produced some of the game's outstanding moments -- running with the ball, passes -- although his finishing let him down.
Best: Frenkie de Jong, Barcelona
Covered every blade of grass on the pitch and acted quickly to create the chance for the opening goal.
Best: Rui Silva, Real Betis
Despite eventually conceding two, which he was faultless for, the goalkeeper had kept Betis in the game until that point.
Worst: Germán Pezzella, Real Betis
Switched off at the corner which allowed Lewandowski to score the vital goal.
Worst: Borja Iglesias, Real Betis
The Spain striker is having an excellent season but he was unable to pose too much of a problem for Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen.
Worst: Jules Kounde, Barcelona
Played quite well, but his error for the own goal could have cost Barca two points.
Highlights and notable moments
It was a cool finish from Raphinha in the second half to put Barcelona up 1-0.
Raphinha taps it in from close range! pic.twitter.com/AomIODRcJ2— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 1, 2023
Robert Lewandowski then doubled Barcelona's lead in the 80th minute.
He controlled the ball with his first touch, and then did well to swivel around and strike.
Lewandowski doubles Barcelona's lead 📈 pic.twitter.com/2xOFbPjXB5— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 1, 2023
Barcelona defender Jules Koundé then gifted Betis a goal in the final throes of the match.
But it didn't change where the result was headed, and Barcelona looked otherwise in control for most of the night.
Jules Kounde attempts a chest pass to the goalkeeper, but it ends up in the back of Barcelona's net.
After the match: What the managers and players said
Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez: "I think we played really well. I would say we were excellent in many phases of the game. We could have sentenced the game with Ansu's header to make it 3-0. But it was a great performance. I am really happy with the performance as much as the result. We took the ball off a team that has it a lot. We improved a lot from [Saturday's win] at Girona."
Barcelona forward Raphinha: "The sensations are good. We are working really hard and the results and points are a result of that. We knew this would be a difficult game. Betis are really good. We knew we had to take out chances so that we didn't suffer late on."
Real Betis manager Manuel Pellegrini: "It was an even game decided by two set plays. The first one we should have had a free kick and they then take their free kick 20 yards further forward. We had some chances as well. It was an even game which Barca one. It could have gone either way."
Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias: "Games against Barca are always like this. It's hard to get the ball of them. They can push you back into your own half. Until their goal we were good. From there, it was another game. But I go home a little angry. I don't want to get in to if they deserved it."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Barcelona have now won six straight games in all competitions for the first time since January-February 2021.
Raphinha scored his fifth goal this season for Barcelona in all competitions. All five of them have been away from the Camp Nou.
Robert Lewandowski has 23 goals this season in all competitions, which is the third most by players in the top five European leagues (Erling Haaland 31, Kylian Mbappe 25).
Barcelona's four straight games keeping a clean sheet is snapped. This is their first goal allowed since the Super Cup vs. Real Madrid on Jan. 15.
Real Betis: Los Verdiblancos return to LaLiga action this weekend, hosting Celta Vigo on Saturday, Feb. 4 (live on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET).
Barcelona: Barca also return to LaLiga action this weekend, hosting Sevilla on Sunday, Feb. 5 (live on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET).