Real Betis 2-2 Barcelona: Late Keita equaliser saves Guardiola from final league-game defeat
The Andalusian outfit came from behind to take the lead yet the Malian midfielder scored a late header to earn his team a point in spite of Dani Alves' sending off
Ten-man Barcelona rounded off their disappointing Liga campaign with a 2-2 draw against Real Betis at the Estadio Benito Villamartin as Seydou Keita's injury-time equaliser cancelled out a late Ruben Castro double in Pep Guardiola's final league game in charge of the Catalans. Sergio Busquets grabbed the first goal for the visitors heading in from a corner as Barcelona looked in a commanding position heading into the second half. However, Dani Alves' sending-off after the break proved to be a turning point as Castro scored two goals to give the home team the lead. However, Seydou Keita's injury-time header prevented Guardiola from bowing out in La Liga on a sour note.
Barca made a fairly bright start to proceedings and provided Betis with an early warning when Lionel Messi played a wonderful through ball in the seventh minute into the path of Ibrahim Afellay. However Casto was alert enough to storm out of his goalmouth to clear what could have been the opening strike of the game. The Catalan visitors did not have to wait too long for another opportunity and in the ninth minute they grabbed the opening goal of the game. Xavi whipped an impressive corner in from the left and Sergio Busquets did brilliantly to make a run towards the front post before flicking an unstoppable header into the far corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper helpless. After taking the lead, Barcelona looked the most likely side to score during the rest of the first period yet failed to create anything else of note while Betis appeared to be a little overawed by the occasion as the away team took their 1-0 lead into the break. Barca started the second period strongly and nearly doubled their lead on 48 minutes. Pedro's jinxing run was interrupted by Chica yet the defender inadvertantly played the ball into the path of Seydou Keita who saw his snapshot from 12 yards brilliantly stopped by the strong wrist of Casto. Despite looking pretty comfortable, Dani Alves shot his own side in the foot when he inexplicably lunged at Jefferson Montero to pick up his second yellow card of the match in the 53rd minute, with the referee giving him his marching orders. The home side were buoyed by the sending off and it was evident to see in their attacking play. They nearly found an equaliser on 68 minutes when Nacho rummaged forward to get near the Barca area. The left-back's low cross deflected off Javier Mascherano before hitting Victor Valdes' leg as Gerard Pique managed to clear the ball from danger two yards from his own goal. The Verdiblancos continued to insert pressure on their famous opponents and grabbed their leveller on 71 minutes. Substitute Roque Santa Cruz flicked the ball into the path of Castro with his head before the striker dinked it over the onrushing Valdes to score one of his most memorable strikes of his career. Amazingly Betis turned the game on it's head when they took the lead in the 75th minute when after a clever passing move, Benat flicked the ball forward to Castro who ran clear of the Barca defence before comfortably netting past Valdes again for his 16th strike of the season. However there was to be some late drama as Keita managed to get on the end of Martin Montoya's cross in the 92nd minute to send his header into the far corner as the Catalans earned a dramatic point. Betis' season has now come to an end with the Andalusian club currently occupying 13th spot although this could change with fixtures tomorrow. Barca still have another match to play in the Copa del Rey final versus Athletic Bilbao final on May 25.