(Reuters) – Lionel Messi scored twice on his eagerly-awaited return but La Liga leaders Barcelona were still left shell-shocked by a scintillating Real Betis side, who beat them at their own game of possession football to win 4-3 at the Nou Camp on Sunday.
The club from Seville began the match in 16th place but produced an irresistible performance in becoming the first team to win at Barca’s home in any competition since 2016 and the first to score four goals there in 15 years.
Barca’s defeat, at the hands of a team that had lost three of their previous four league outings, was compounded by the sending off of their midfielder Ivan Rakitic after 81 minutes.
They are now just one point clear at the top of La Liga on 24 points after 12 games, one point clear of Atletico Madrid, Alaves and Sevilla, who came from behind in the second half to beat Espanyol 2-1 at home with an 89th-minute goal from Wissam Ben Yedder.
While Real have yet to make a marked improvement in overall performances under former midfielder Solari, they have enjoyed far better fortunes than in the final weeks under Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked two weeks ago after the humiliating 5-1 defeat to Barcelona.
Real Madrid notched a fourth straight win under interim coach Santiago Solari by winning 4-2 at Celta Vigo on Sunday to move to within four points of La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Karim Benzema gave the European champions the lead in the 20th minute with an irresistible piece of control and finish after a pinpoint pass from Luka Modric.
The Frenchman was then instrumental in doubling the lead early in the second half, firing a shot which squirmed under goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez and over the line off Celta defender Gustavo Cabral.
Real’s lead was far from comfortable, though, and Hugo Mallo pulled the home side back into the game with a well-taken volley on the hour mark which preceded a spell of heavy pressure from Celta.
Madrid managed to ride it out and killed the game off as a contest with a late ‘Panenka’ penalty from captain Sergio Ramos and a thunderous strike from Dani Ceballos in stoppage time.