Playing without Neymar, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, and Victor Valdes in the starting line-up, second place Barca was still rolling on all cylinders, albeit against last place Betis. The Catalans produced pretty football with Alexis Sanchez in particularly spectacular form and Pedro spoiling to score in a rare starting role. Lionel Messi was on too and almost set up a half-dozen goals but for a final stop by a desperate defensive poke.
Perhaps the nicest play involved the entire Barcelona offensive machine and culminated with a Xavi Hernandez shot from the center-top of the box which Betis goalkeeper Antonio Adan did well to parry to his left and our of danger.
But at the 15th minute, Sanchez dribbled into the Betis box and around four defenders before he was brought down by an obvious Jordi Figueras foul. Messi converted the ensuing penalty to place Barca ahead 1-0 and the score line remained such until half-time.
The usual occurrences took place with Sergio Busquets getting away with fouls galore, Dani Alves not being called on dives, and Javier Mascherano unsanctioned for countless well-disguised rough play.
In the second half, Barcelona still looked the more dangerous side and were in fact looking for the killer second goal seemingly a lot more than Betis looked for the tying one. But at the 60th minute the visitors made two changes bringing in attackers who had an immediate impact with Betis' first elaborate attacking foray that yet resulted in a shot over the crossbar.
At the 67th minute a nice give and go among several Barca players culminated in a cross that Figueras tried to block but instead put into the goal past the outstretched arms of the diving Adan.
A minute later, the 68th, Betis' Ruben Castro, one of those attacking substitutes, scored an easy goal off a great counter that found Barca's defense flat footed and out of position. Castro slotted the ball through a gaggle of defenders and the sprawled Jose Pinto.
At the 78th minute, Barca coach, Tata Martino, got nervous with the score and the surging Betis team. The coach then did what all coaches in world football dream to be able to do--he brought Neymar and Fabregas in to replace Andres Iniesta and Pedro.
At the 84th minute a Neymar run culminated in a Betis hand ball in the box and resulted in another penalty. Messi shot low and to his right and Adan guessed right and stopped the shot. But the rebound came right back out to Messi who got it into the net for a 3-1 Barca lead.
With Real Madrid's game still ahead, Barcelona remains in second place behind Atletico Madrid and ahead of arch-rivals Real. Messi is now just two goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo on the scorer's table.