Real Betis coach Quique Setien likes to say that he would give his little finger to have had the honor of playing for Johan Cruyff.
That didn’t stop him for masterminding a 4-3 victory Sunday at Barcelona, a team that claims Cruyff as the creator of its playing style.
“This is a game to put in a frame,” Setien said. “To win here and score four goals is something that will be remembered always. Anybody who likes football and cares about more than just getting a result will have liked this match.”
The 60-year-old Setien is a former Spain midfielder who is trying to make Betis not just a winner, but a proponent of the beautiful game.
Since arriving at Betis at the start of the 2017-18 season, Setien has installed a three-man defense, a formation that Cruyff used to great success when he coached Barcelona to the club’s first European Cup in 1992 and four consecutive Spanish league titles from 1991-94.
The formation— and Betis’ aggressive attitude— proved key to dealing Barcelona its first home loss in la Liga in over two years.
“Barcelona has been setting the standard for 20 to 25 years and we are trying to establish our identity,” Setien said. “Barcelona’s fans have been watching this kind of football for many years, while we are still apprentices.
“I am thrilled with our match today. It is a huge boost to what we are doing because there are some people who don’t believe in this way of playing.”
Betis fans had good reason to question Setien’s methods after a sixth-place finish last campaign.
The Sevilla-based club had very little to show from its open, flowing passing game.
A squad packed with playmakers such as Joaquin Sanchez, Sergio Canales and Takashi Inui, lacked quality strikers. Before the visit to Barcelona, Betis was the lowest-scoring team in the league along with Valencia after just notching eight goals in 11 matches.
Three of those previous goals were scored in a 3-3 draw at Celta Vigo in the prior round, and more goals came at Camp Nou.
Besides his appreciation of Cruyff’s tactics, Setien also credits his love for chess with helping his understanding of soccer. Setien says one of his highlights as a chess player was his participation in simultaneous exhibitions against chess legends Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.
Chess, he says, taught him “patience, capacity for analysis, emotional control.”
“And perspective. It’s not about where the pieces are now, but where they will be after a series of moves,” Setien told Spanish newspaper El Periodico recently.
Setien’s use of five players in midfield allowed Betis to pressure high up the pitch and mount quick attacks in large numbers.
Left wing back Junio Firpo scored the opener after being sprung by a perfectly-weighted pass from William Carvalho.
The two combined to start another attack that finished with six Betis attackers against four defenders and Sanchez making it 2-0 before halftime.
“We were a brave team, we played a great game,” Sanchez said. “We showed the finish touch we were missing in other matches.”
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde sacrificed the passing and ball-control provided by Arthur for the punch of Arturo Vidal at halftime.
The result was Barcelona scoring all three of its goals, including two by Lionel Messi and one by Vidal. But Betis also scored twice after halftime when Giovani Lo Celso was left unmarked arriving from midfield before Firpo set up Canales to take the goal that proved to be the winner.
“In the trading of blows we couldn’t control the situation,” Valverde said. “Each time we got closer they hit us right back.”
Source: The Associated Press