BARCELONA moved a step closer to winning LaLiga – but it was a 15-year-old who stole the show.
The Catalans romped to a 4-0 win over Real Betis to go 11 points clear of rivals Real Madrid, however that was overshadowed by the debut of wonderkid Lamine Yamal.
The teenager, rated as the best prospect to emerge from La Masia academy since Lionel Messi, appeared in the final moments from the bench.
And he nearly grabbed all the headlines, but for a fine save from goalkeeper Rui Silva.
But, that didn’t matter. His debut was the youngest by any Barcelona player this century.
“I told him to try things and boy did he do that,” boss Xavi said after the game. “At 15 years old, imagine that?
“He almost scored, almost assisted for a teammate. He can become a special player.”
Before Yamal’s 11-minute cameo, Barcelona showed the swagger of champions as they swatted away Betis.
It didn’t help that their opponents were reduced to 10-men after 33 minutes, with Edgar Gonzalez getting his marching orders after receiving two yellow cards.
What was even more astonishing, the Spanish defender was only on the pitch for 21 minutes, coming on as a sub for the injured Luiz Felipe in the 12th minute.
Barcelona were already winning before Gonzalez’s rush of blood to the head through an Andreas Christensen goal.
Robert Lewandowski then took his league-leading tally to 19 goals, two more than nearest rival Karim Benzema.
Raphinha, who provided an assist for Christensen’s opener, added a third goal in the 39th.
There was a return for Ousmane Dembele, who was welcomed onto the Camp Nou pitch with a hearty applause in his first appearance since injuring his thigh in January.
However, that was eclipsed by the standing ovation 41-year-old Joaquin was given by the 88,000 strong crowd when he came on as a substitute.
The veteran recently announced he will retire after this season, the 23rd of his career.
Cruelly, he would go off with a knee injury in the 80th minute – leaving his team with just nine men on the field, after they had made all their substitutions.
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It was all academic. Betis’ Guido Rodriguez then turned a pass by Ansu Fati into his own net in the 82nd minute.
Moments later, fans would get a glimpse of their latest boy wonder Yamal.
As fleeting as it was, you get the feeling it won’t be long before we see much more of the youngster – tipped to emulate their greatest son, Messi.