Result: Real Betis 3 Barcelona 2
Betis came from 2-0 down to leave Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard feeling "ashamed" of a 3-2 defeat that could prove decisive in the race for the La Liga title...
At half time Rijkaard's team looked certain to move to within a point of Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Liga table and pile the pressure on their bitter rivals who face Sevilla on Sunday. However, while we may never know exactly what the Dutchman said at half time, his side emerged after the interval looking far more lacklustre than they had in the first; and the decision to take off his best player on the night after just 60 minutes will come under fierce scrutiny in the Catalan press over the coming days.
Barcelona started the match brightly and all was going according to plan when Bojan Krkic and Samuel Eto'o struck within three minutes of each other to give the Catalans a two goal lead in the opening quarter of an hour.
Iniesta could have added a third and Eto'o almost got on the end of Eric Abidal's low cross just before the interval to put the match beyond the home side.
However, Chaparro made changes early in the second half that were to prove inspirational. Rafael Sobis and David Odonkor came on in place of Capi and Mark Gonzalez and Betis suddenly seemed to take control. Rijkaard responded by taking off Bojan Krkic, the best player on the pitch at that point, and replacing him with Giovanni Dos Santos in the 62nd minute.
Betis scored almost immediately and it was one of the subs, Rafael Sobis, who provided the cross that picked out Edu for him to power a header past a stranded Valdes. (1-2 and 63 minutes played)
Odonkor then had the chance to equalise for Betis when he won a penalty after being pushed to the ground by Abidal, only for Valdes to save the ensuing spot kick. Betis pushed on, however, and grabbed the equaliser a minute later, when Juanito chested the ball down and volleyed brilliantly into the far corner to send the home fans in to ecstasy.
Catalan hearts were broken when Edu cut inside from the left and smashed the ball past Valdes from outside the box to complete a remarkable comeback after 77 minutes.
This was a significant win for Betis who now move provisionally six points clear of the drop zone.
This was a very, very bad night for Barcelona and the recriminations will be intense as this coming week unfolds. Rijkaard’s side could find themselves seven points adrift of Real Madrid once again should Schuster’s side beat Sevilla at the Bernabeu on Sunday.
Sensing the intense media barrage that he and his players will face over the next few days, Rijkaard said afterwards “I would just like to apologise to the Barcelona fans, it is at times like this that we must remain calm, no matter how tough things may be.”