Ten-man Barcelona beat Valencia 1-0 at the Camp Nou to open up a 10-point cushion over defending Champions Real Madrid at the summit of the La Liga standings on Sunday evening.
The result capped off a fine week for the Catalans following their first-leg win over Real in the Copa Del Rey semi-final in midweek.
BARCELONA TAKE EARLY LEAD
Rapinha opened the scoring in the 15th minute as he made a fine diagonal run to meet Sergio Busquets’ fine switch of play from midfield. The Brazilian clipped his header perfectly over Giorgi Mamardashvili in the Valencia goal to give the hosts an early lead.
Despite going ahead, Barcelona failed to stamp their authority on the game with their sloppy defending. The visitors couldn’t take advantage as they spurned two golden opportunities to restore parity before the half-time whistle.
Catalans can’t put the game to bed
Barcelona were awarded a penalty just eight minutes after the break when Jules Kounde’s goal-bound effort was deflected off Hugo Guillamon’s outstretched arm.
Ferran Torres stepped up but missed his spot kick as it clipped off the right-hand post, much to the frustration of the home support. Just three minutes later, Ansu Fati hit the post after some wonderful interplay with Raphinha.
Valencia were then handed yet another lifeline when Ronald Araujo was sent off with a straight red as he clumsily stopped Hugo Duro when he was through on goal.
Despite the advantage of having an extra man, the visitors failed to create any clear-cut opportunities and hardly troubled Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal.
The Catalans came under real pressure in the game’s closing stages and were lucky to survive a penalty claim when Frack Kessie bundled Fran Perez in the box but the referee waved play on.
The result means Barcelona now lead the La Liga standings with 62 points from 24 games, while Valencia’s dismal campaign continues as they are in the relegation zone with 23 points, two points away from safety.
Photo credit: IMAGO / Cordon Press
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