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Messi scares away the sadness


Two goals in two minutes earned Barcelona an emotional 2-0 victory over Real Betis to open the 2017-18 La Liga season on Sunday evening at the Camp Nou.
A Tosca own goal in the 37th minute was followed shortly by a Sergi Roberto strike to deliver the win to the home side, who were missing stalwarts Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique due to injury. New manager Ernesto Valverde made three main changes, with Semedo getting a start at right-back, and Sergi Roberto pushed into midfield. Up front, in place of Suarez was Paco Alcacer.
The start of a new season in La Liga is usually marked by a feeling of joy and renewal, but in light of the tragic events of the past week in the Catalonian city, there was an understandably somber feeling inside the Camp Nou.
It was up to the 11 men on the pitch to bring back that feeling of joy, or at least to temporarily allow the fans to take their minds off of last Thursday's terrorist attack. Knowing that they were playing for something far more important than just three points, Barcelona pulled through with a spirited, decisive victory thanks to Lionel Messi, who led the attack all evening long.
Sergi Roberto and Sergio Busquets worked tirelessly in midfield to pressure Betis and regain possession of the ball, something that was sorely lacking in the two legs of the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid, and it helped pave the way for a number of chances in the first half-hour from Gerard Deulofeu and Messi, only to see their respective shots fail to hit the target.
Betis did well to absorb the early pressure and began to carve out a chance or two toward the end of the first 45 minutes. But still Barcelona remained in charge of the match and the Verdiblancos could count themselves lucky when Messi fired a free-kick off the post from 25 metres out.
Messi was starting to find space though, and one such occasion led to the opener, as the Argentine looked to play a quick one-two combination with Deulofeu, only to see Deulofeu's cross deflected in by Betis defender Tosca for a 1-0 lead.
The goal opened things up and Betis nearly struck back with an equaliser, but a last-ditch tackle from Javier Mascherano on Nahuel made for an easy save for goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The Barcelona pressure continued and they were able to double their lead 2-0 when Deulofeu stole a ball deep in the Betis half and found an unmarked Sergio Roberto, who calmly stroked home for the goal.
The hosts stayed in control to open the second stanza, knowing that a third score would all beat seal the three points. Messi was inch away from doing just that, but for the second time on the day the post denied the Argentine.
For the most part Barcelona kept things clean, with the lone exception being a careless error from Sergi Roberto of which Nahuel failed to take advantage. Otherwise, Barcelona were in cruise control, and the only thing missing was a Messi goal.
It was not meant to be. La Pulga's final look at goal came in the final 10 minutes, but he could only shake his head in disbelief when he hit the post for a third time on the day, this time on sizzling left-footer that had Adan beat.
Nevertheless, it was a confidence-building win for the Catalonians, who next travel to Vitoria on Saturday to face Alaves.
Match Sheet
2.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alba (Digne, min. 87), Umtiti, Mascherano, Semedo; Sergi Roberto, Busquets, Rakitic; Deulofeu (Vidal, min. 72), Alcacer (Denis Suarez, min. 82), Messi.
0.- Real Betis: Adan; Barragan, Mandi, Feddal, Tosca; Guardado, Camarasa (Fabian, min. 78), Narvaez (Javi Garcia, min. 68), Joaquin, Nahuel (Francis, min. 72); Sergio Leon.
Goals: 1-0, min. 37: Tosca (og); 2-0, min. 39: Sergi Roberto.
Referee: Daniel Trujillo (Canarias).
Yellow cards: Alba (Min. 51) for Barcelona; Nahuel (Min. 63) for Betis, Digne (Min. 92) for Barcelona.
Red cards: None.
Stadium: Camp Nou.
Attendance: 56.480

LaLiga's journey: From 1929 to today


February 10, 1929, saw the birth of what we now know to be LaLiga with the amount of opposition to the creation of the league at the time making it a long and difficult journey for the division to get to the point it is at today.
There was not great enthusiasm for the league being created back then and it came at a time of national crisis in Spain following the death of Queen Maria Cristina inside the Palace of Madrid.
Mourning took place for six days and it dominated the national news with the formation of a new Spanish football division rather understandably slipping under the radar for most.
The first LaLiga season was a good one for Barcelona as they secured the title on the final day with a victory over Real Union, yet all eyes were again on matters rather more serious.
Violence cascaded across Mexico following a failed assassination attempt on President Portes Gil whilst the Italian government and the Holy See signed the Lateran Treaty which gave the church compensation for the loss of the Papal States.
LaLiga is now a sporting behemoth in 2017 with it holding the best teams in the world within it, and the finance on offer across the Spanish footballing landscape is now almost unfathomable when you consider the humble beginnings of the league.
Rather ironically there is some semblance of consistency with Real Madrid being involved in the title picture in the very first LaLiga campaign given that they were involved in it in the latest one as well.






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