At a time when league leaders Real Madrid were in the midst of their lowest point over a calendar year, their bitter rivals in Cataluña failed to keep pace Sunday. On the road against middle of the table team Real Betis, Barça trekked back home with only one point - and somewhat controversially.
Alex Alegria put the hosts ahead with a goal after the Blaugrana only managed two shots on goal in the first half. However Barcelona were denied a goal that replays showed had clearly crossed the goal line. Moments later with the game clock winding down the closing minutes, Leo Messi assisted Luis Suarez to net the equalizer, which did count.
No doubt Barcelona brass and supporters alike will be calling for the Spanish league to institute goal line technology, like many other leading leagues have done already.
On the bright side, Barcelona climbed into second place with Sevilla's loss on the road to their fellow Catalans Espanyol. Both sit tied for second with 42 points, although Barcelona has the advantage of better goal differential.
In Madrid, Los Blancos celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year with a comfortable 3-0 win over fifth place Basque side Real Sociedad. Real Sociedad has been a thorn in the side of La Liga's top teams, and with Madrid coming in with the appearances of a confidence crisis many though they could trip them up and send Zinedine Zidane's club into a complete tailspin.
However Mateo Kovacic opened up the scoring in the 38th minute thanks to an assist from Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo later followed up with a chip shot good for the match's second goal. After being the center of much debate over his recent form, Ronaldo played facilitator at times, trying to create chances for his teammates, something that he will likely need to do more of with his obvious loss of his trademark speed.
Alvaro Morata contributed a fantastic header for the third goal late, perhaps auditioning for a move away from the Bernabeu come summer time. Morata's homecoming has definitely not gone as planned, finding playing time sparse despite scoring at a very efficient rate. Should Madrid make him available, which is likely since they were rumored to be looking to unload him before the season, he should have no shortage of suitors. PSG seems a natural fit, with their deep pockets and need for another scoring threat after former Madrid man Jesé Rodriguez has proven to be a disaster.
Photo: Flickr/El Renzo