Barcelona, Spain, Apr 5 (efe-epa).- A goal by Ousmane Dembele in the 90th minute was the last-minute strike that broke the logjam between Barcelona and Valladolid and put Ronald Koeman’s Catalonian squad just one ranking point behind struggling La Liga leader Atletico de Madrid on Monday.
The match was played before empty stands due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.
In virtually every way an agonizing match against a rival playing from the 79th minute onward with just 10 men on the pitch after Plano’s red-card expulsion, the win gave a huge confidence boost to Barca, which needed to win but did not play very well against a squad that fended off every scoring attempt until Dembele hunted down the ball and got it into the twine in the final seconds.
This was the 19th consecutive unbeaten match for Barcelona, and the team has pocketed 40 of the last 42 ranking points available, gaining 12 points in just the past couple of weeks on Atletico de Madrid, whose prospects of an easy title win have all but vanished.
Now, with their present momentum, it is Barcelona’s title to lose and next Saturday the team will go up against Real Madrid in Valdebebas, a contest that will be the perfect time to nab the No. 1 slot.
It wasn’t easy, however, and Koeman’s boys could not seem to deploy effectively along the wing, didn’t dominate the match, were not able to find open spaces into which to drive and could not seem to get out of the bottleneck that Valladolid created for them.
The Catalonian squad was uncomfortable on the pitch, even though they came out with Messi and De Jong.
Valladolid, in contrast, had not won at Camp Nou since 1997, but went into the match with 12 men out of commission but with very clear ideas of what they wanted to accomplish. In fact, in the first half it was the visitors who had three nice chances in the 9th, 24th and 25th minutes, although they couldn’t capitalize.
Play heated up somewhat in the second half, with both sides getting a few good chances, but it wasn’t until the 90th minute when Dembele saved the team’s bacon, knocking in a left-footer from De Jong’s cross.
With the loss, Valladolid has won just one of its last 12 La Liga matches and remains three points above the relegation threshold.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza (Araujo, min. 63), Frenkie de Jong, Lenglet; Dest (Riqui Puig, min. 87), Sergio Busquets (Braithwaite, min. 63), Pedri (Ilaix, min. 77), Jordi Alba, Messi; Griezmann (Trincao, min. 63) and Dembele.
Valladolid: Masip; Janko (Hervías, min. 65), Javi Sanchez, Bruno, Olaza; Oscar Plano, Roque Mesa, Alcaraz, Nacho; Sergi Guardiola (Marcos Andre, min. 77) and Kenan Kodro (Waldo Rubio, min. 85)
Referee: Jaime Latre showed yellow cards to Griezmann (min. 28), Bruno (min. 40), Mingueza (min. 43), Guardiola (min. 73), Jordi Masip (min. 79), Braithwaite (min. 84) and to coach Sergio Gonzalez (min. 90+3). He booted Oscar Plano (min. 79) and a member of Valladolid’s technical team.