The veteran Chilean came on at half-time at the Camp Nou and gave Barca hope of an improbable comeback with his second goal for the club late on.
Speaking after the match he took aim at the team’s defending. “We started badly and they took advantage of the two chances they had in the first half and like this it’s difficult, we can’t lose like this at home,” said the 31-year-old.
“We had chances to come back but we have to improve other things. Teams can’t come here and bang in four goals against us.”
Ernesto Valverde’s side’s defensive record this season is a real worry. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in La Liga since August and only Levante, Athletic Bilbao, Rayo and Huesca have conceded more.
“We have to work on that, see the mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again,” added Vidal.
A crazy game at the Camp Nou saw Barcelona suffer their first home defeat in La Liga since September 2016, and Real Betis were full value for their 4-3 victory which could have been a lot more convincing.
The visitors raced into a 2-0 first half lead to leave Barca playing catch-up, and although Ernesto Valverde’s men never stopped trying they were clearly the inferior team on the day.
Let’s review the action from a bizarre contest.
Credit to Betis for scintillating show
Before criticising Barcelona’s performance, we should start by praising an outstanding Betis team who not only deserved the victory but did so by outplaying the hosts in every aspect of the game.
Betis were magnificent. They were organised, composed, controlled and followed a clearly laid-down game plan with rigour and belief, insisting upon playing the ball out from defence and weaving slick passing patterns with the ball whilst fearlessly pressing high up the pitch out of possession.
Quique Setien has long been touted as a potential future Barca manager and that speculation will inevitably and rightly become much more intense after this display, which saw his team do the unthinkable and out-football Barca on their own home turf.
Even in the dying stages when the home team were throwing everything forward in desperation, Betis still maintained their poise, purpose and attacking intent, generally looking defensively secure and always threatening in attack.
The bravery they showed by taking the game to Barca and continue attacking even with a lead to defend was admirable, and with many more performances likes this they will soon be in the race for a top four finish.
Chaotic Barca lose their control
There were a lot of things wrong with this Barcelona performance, including major individual errors such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen allowing Gio Lo Celso’s shot to trickle through his fingers and Ivan Rakitic getting himself sent off with a wild lunge.
The most concerning element of their game, though, was their complete inability to exert a quality they usually take for granted: control.
At no stage in the game did Barca appear to be in command of the situation. Apart from perhaps the opening three minutes, when the visitors were penned back, Betis had Barca where they wanted them – and kept them there.
Sergio Busquets and Arthur were in the pockets of their man-markers Lo Celso and Andres Guardado, Luis Suarez was under the thumb of Marc Bartra and even Lionel Messi was reduced to looking for hopeful miracles rather than careful construction.
Barca possess such great individual quality that occasionally such miracles do occur, such as their remarkable third goal which really should be considered as a goal of the season contender after a dazzling interchange of passes gave Messi a close-range tap-in.
But in general play Barca were a mess, typified by Gerard Pique repeatedly charging forward like a schoolboy in the playground and getting himself caught way out of position when the ball was lost.
Defensive transitions undermine Barca
Pique was at the centre of the most specific weakness in Barca’s performance: their defensive transitions.
Whenever a spell of possession broke down and Betis mounted a swift attack, Barca looked vulnerable. This started from the very early stages, when visiting striker Loren Moron fired a decent chance over the bar following a rapid but precisely played attack.
Barca just couldn’t get enough men back quickly enough, and those that were there – Pique – were unable to do nearly enough to snuff out the danger.
Part of the problem, undoubtedly, is that none of the midfield trio of Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arthur are athletic players, and they desperately struggle to quickly regain defensive positions if the ball is lost high up the pitch.
The ultra-attacking tendencies of the full-backs, especially Jordi Alba, also played a part, and it didn’t help that the front three of Messi, Suarez and Malcom seemed to be largely exempt from chasing back.
It all added up to a shapeless collective structure which offered huge holes for Betis to exploit, something they took full advantage of. And unless Barca’s ability transition between attack and defence improves, other teams will exploit it in a similar manner as the season wears on.
Barcelona lost at home for the first time this season as Real Betis claimed the points in a 4-3 thriller.
The game contained some individual brilliance and horrible howlers…but who did what? We rate all the players here.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen 4. Perhaps could have saved the opener inside his near post and made a genuine howler for Lo Celso’s goal.
Sergi Roberto 5. Easily beaten by Junior for the opener and made some basic errors, but displayed his usual endless running.
Gerard Pique 4. Lost his footing early on and that was a metaphor for a clumsy and chaotic performance. All over the place.
Clement Lenglet 6. Often left to perform a one-man defence and did about as well as he could. Unlucky not to score in the first half.
Jordi Alba 5. Had a tough game against Tello but did at least win the penalty. Full of running but often exposed.
Ivan Rakitic 4. One of his worst performances for a long time, getting out-passed, out-run and eventually sent off.
Sergio Busquets 5. Fired a rare chance over early on and that was the cue for a sketchy showing. Substituted after Messi’s penalty.
Arthur 4. Couldn’t get into the game at all in the face of Betis’s dogged man-marking, and was substituted at half-time.
Lionel Messi 7. Not the return to action he expected, even though he played well enough. Netted a penalty and a stoppage time consolation.
Luiz Suarez 5. Everything went wrong for him early on, with heavy touches and poor passes, but he kept working and gradually improved.
Malcom 5. Bright down the left in the opening stages but soon faded and looked lost. Replaced early in the second half.
Arturo Vidal 6. Half-time entrant and his aggression made an immediate impact. Scored a goal and assisted Messi’s second.
Munir 6. Replaced Malcom on the left of the front three, and set up Vidal’s goal. Did enough to earn more playing time.
Carles Alena 6. A rare chance to impress and fired just wide with his first touch. Tried his best but was outnumbered in midfield.
Pau Lopez 7. Made a stunning reflex stop to deny Lenglet at 1-0, and couldn’t have done anything to stop Barca’s goals. Great in possession.
Aissa Mandi 7. Authoritative performance on the right of Betis’s back three. Shackled Malcom and combined well with Tello.
Marc Bartra 8. Commanding back in his old home stadium, subduing Suarez with calm authority. Looks ready for a bigger stage.
Sidnei 8 Very strong on the ball and always willing to add another man into midfield by striding forward.
Cristian Tello 7. Twice came close to scoring and assisted two goals. Always a threat going forward. Tripped Alba for penalty.
William Carvalho 9. Sprayed a lovely long ball to assist Junior’s goal and delivered a generally masterful display, a tower of strength.
Andres Guardado 7. A quietly but very effective display in midfield, keeping possession well and supporting his defence.
Junior Firpo 8. Did brilliantly to rifle the opener low inside the near post and provided great width down the left. Also assisted the fourth.
Giovani Lo Celso 8. Bright and creative in possession, linking midfield with attack in style. Crowned a marvellous performance with a goal.
Joaquin 7. Netted a well-taken goal and was full of intelligent movement and clever touches. Replaced to applause after an hour.
Loren Moron 7. Volleyed one presentable early chance over and flashed another couple just wide. Worked hard and led the line well.
Sergio Canales 7. Replaced Joaquin as an attacking midfielder and was a bundle of energy, netting his team’s fourth from close range.
Sergio Leon 6. Came on to replace Loren for the final stages and repeatedly looked capable of exposing a stretched Barca defence.
Takashi Inui 5. Entered the fray for the final five minutes and didn’t really have a kick in a frantic ending.