Player ratings as Ferran Torres hat trick seals important win for underfire Xavi

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By newsversepro.com

A hat trick from Ferran Torres and a stunning finish from substitute Joao Felix secured a vital win for Xavi Hernandez and Barcelona on Sunday.

Xavi’s role at the club had been called into question following a spate of poor performances, however he would’ve been buoyed by his side’s strong showing in the first half of the clash with Real Betis. Ferran Torres gave Barca the lead in a dominant first 45, and doubled said lead with a volley at the start of the second 45 too.

Things went pear-shaped after that thanks to Isco. The former Real Madrid man bagged a stunning brace to make it 2-2 around the hour mark, before Felix came off the bench to score a late third, and Ferran completed his hat trick with an even later fourth to give Barca a 4-2 win.

How the game unfolded

Real Betis started the game brightly, exploiting Barcelona’s defensive frailties almost immediately from kick-off, with Isco dinking the ball over the out-of-form Ronald Araujo and the 16-year-old Pau Cubarsi to play Luiz Henrique clean through on goal.

The Brazilian, still waiting for his first La Liga goal of the season, was unable to convert however, lofting the ball over the onrushing Inaki Pena and also narrowly over the crossbar.

Barca found a way to wrestle control of the game thereafter, keeping the ball well and attempting to find routes in behind Betis’s defence. They found exactly that in the 21st minute when, rather fortunately, an attempted cross-field pass from Ilkay Gundogan deflected perfectly into the path of Pedri on the right of the penalty box. The Spain international was then able to cleverly square to Ferran Torres, who made no mistake when presented with an open goal – tapping casually in to the back of the net.

The visitors came within a whisker of doubling their lead on two occasions before half-time, first through wonderkid Lamine Yamal who curled a stunning effort off of the post, then when Robert Lewandowski was adjudged to have been offside when side-footing home from close range.

Despite Real Betis bringing on Nabil Fekir at half-time, Barca continued their dominance into the second 45 and deservedly doubled their lead in the 48th minute. Once again, Ferran was the goalscorer, volleying into the net brilliantly after Yamal had burst down the flank and put the ball into the danger area.

Betis finally started to show some signs of life after going 2-0 down, with Isco beginning to pull the strings for the home side.

The ex-Real Madrid man was then able to reduce the deficit with a stunning volley in the 56th minute, connecting perfectly with a looping ball in the box to fire into the roof of the net.

The goal was soon followed up with another by Isco. This time, capitalising on a explicitly rocked Barca defence, the midfielder darted in behind to flick the ball past Inaki Pena at the right post.

Momentum toed-and-froed for much of the rest of the game, until a moment of real quality from substitute Joao Felix won the game for his side. The underfire forward provided his side with a stunning piece of invention on the edge of the box to make it 3-2, controlling a Ferran pass with one touch with the outside of his right boot, and then curling into the bottom corner with another flick of the outside of his boot.

Betis piled men forward thereafter in search of an equaliser and were punished for doing so when Yamal played a surgical pass through the heart of their defence to Ferran, who completed his hat trick with a delicate dink over Rui Silva in goal.

Isco Alarcon, Lamine Yamal

Yamal was fantastic / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

GK: Inaki Pena – 3/10 – His nerves in goal seem to be hindering the rest of the backline right now.

RB: Jules Kounde – 6/10 – An improved outing on the right flank.

CB: Ronald Araujo – 5/10 – He’s just a bit all over the place at the moment.

CB: Pau Cubarsi – 7/10 – Barcelona’s best defender on the night, the 16-year-old more than held his own on his debut.

LB: Alejandro Balde – 4/10 – Out of position for most of the game, with Xavi trying his best to coax him back to where he should be on the pitch. He’s regressed hugely this season.

CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 5/10 – Struggling to really effect games in this Barcelona system.

CM: Frenkie de Jong – 7/10 – The muscle and class in the middle for Barca as per, won 10 duals and completed over 90% of his passes.

CM: Pedri – 7/10 – Impressive first half showing, used the ball well as exemplified by the assist he bagged for Ferran’s opener.

RW: Lamine Yamal – 8/10 – A lively outing from the youngster once again, bagging an assist late on. The sky’s the limit for Yamal, he’s got everything you’d want a winger to have.

ST: Robert Lewandowski – 2/10 – The superstar is really starting to look his age up front. Another poor outing.

LW: Ferran Torres – 9/10 – Extremely clinical in front of goal on Sunday, bagging three goals and causing problems to the Betis backline throughout.

Substitutes

SUB: Vitor Roque (63′ for Lewandowski) – 5/10

SUB: Fermin Lopez (72′ for Pedri) – 6/10

SUB: Joao Felix (80′ for Cubarsi) – 7/10 – Scored a brilliant goal.

Manager – Xavi Hernandez – 8/10 – The first half was the best Barcelona have played in quite a while. After the game started to get away from then in the second, Xavi’s substitutes turned the tide in Barca’s favour once more.

Player of the match: Ferran Torres (Barcelona)

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