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Barca suffer shock league home defeat

Betis the first team to upset Catalans at Nou Camp since Alaves in Sept 2016

Barcelona lost at home in La Liga for the first time in more than two years as Real Betis pulled off a stunning 4-3 victory yesterday morning (Singapore time), despite Lionel Messi scoring twice on his return from injury.

Barca last endured a league defeat at the Nou Camp against Alaves in September 2016 but, following 42 games unbeaten, their run was ended by a brilliant, counter-attacking display from Betis.

The Catalans' shock defeat came despite a return for Messi, whose two goals, one from the penalty spot and another deep into injury-time, proved little more than consolations.

"We don't leave with the feeling Betis were the better team," coach Ernesto Valverde said.

"I don't want to take credit away from Betis, but we could have countered them better."

It was the first time ever that Messi scored twice and Barcelona lost, but they stay top of the table, even if three clubs now lurk just one point behind.

Atletico Madrid, whom they face at the Wanda Metropolitano after the international break, Sevilla and Alaves lead the chasing pack.

"Top of the table is fine, I won't deny it," Valverde said.

"It should also help us to realise it is never easy to win."

Betis' reward for beating Barca is to climb to 12th.

Quique Setien's side may have pulled back on the sumptuous, attacking football that earned them a sixth-placed finish last term but, in full flow, they remain one of Spain's most difficult opponents to stop.

"We have been a brave team in every way," former Spain international Joaquin said.

"Winning at the Nou Camp requires concentration and doing everything very well. We played a great game." - AFP

Real appoint Solari as permanent coach

Santiago Solari's appointment as Real Madrid's permanent coach has been approved by the Spanish football federation (RFEF), a spokesman said yesterday.

"Everything is in order. Real Madrid have worked out his contract and there are no problems," the RFEF stated.

Though the club have yet to confirm the news, Spanish rules prevent an interim coach from staying in charge for longer than 15 days, a period that expires today.

The 42-year-old Argentinian has led the team to four wins in four games since replacing Julen Lopetegui at the helm of the European champions two weeks ago. His latest win came yesterday, when Real defeated Celta Vigo 4-2 a t Balaidos.

Under Solari, Real have scored 15 goals and conceded just two, while they cut the gap behind Barcelona to four points in La Liga - a run that impressed Real director Emilio Butragueno.

"He has done excellently," Butragueno said yesterday.

"He has achieved very good results, above all today against Celta in a very difficult game. We are very happy with how things have gone." - AFP, REUTERS

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