Robert Lewandowski scored on his return from a three-match ban to help send Barcelona eight points clear of Real Madrid having played a game more.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side can close the gap against managerless Valencia on Thursday but this 2-1 win was another impressive result for Barcelona who were left hanging on at the end after a Jules Kounde own goal reduced the margin following Lewandowski’s 14th goal in 16 league games and the impressive Raphinha’s opener.
The first half had been fast-paced with both sides coming close to breaking the deadlock. Luis Henrique went close with a shot. And Jules Kounde blocked a Sergio Canales shot after a brilliant pass from Nabil Fekir had sent Aitor Ruibal through.
Pedri came into the game having scored in Barcelona’s last two home games and he was lively after the break too with a shot through a crowded area that Rui Silva saved well. Fekir tested Marc Andre ter Stegen at the other end.
Raphinha then went down in the box claiming a penalty. It was a strange one – Abner Vinicius had clipped him and he hadn’t gone down, then he had dived over the challenge of Canales who hadn’t touched him.
He was a constant threat and when the breakthrough came he provided the finishing touch. De Jong sent Alejandro Balde down the left and his cross was turned in by the Brazilian at the back post from close range. It was Raphinha’s third league goal of the season and fine assist from Balde. But credit must go to De Jong too he took the quick free-kick to the left back after Gavi had been fouled.
These days, once Barça score, it’s hard to see them not winning because they have only let-in six goals all season.
They almost doubled their lead when Luis Felipe had to slide in to block Lewandowski’s shot from close range after more good work from De Jong. The Pole got his goal on 79 minutes sweeping in Ronald Araujo’s downward header from Pedri’s corner.
It should have been a calm finish for Xavi’s side but the did conceded that goal number seven when Kounde chested Youssouf Sabaly’s cross past Ter Stegen on 85 minutes.
Roared on by the Benito Villamarin Betis went for the equalizer but Barcelona saw out the four added minutes and moved further clear at the top – Madrid must now beat Valencia to reign in Xavi’s runaway leaders.