Ferran Torres, Ter Stegen give Barca 1-0 win over Atletico
(Updates with info about additional matches)
Barcelona, Apr 23 (EFE).- A goal by Ferran Torres just before the intermission and fabulous work by netminder Marc Andre ter Stegen gave Barcelona a 1-0 win over Atletico de Madrid on Sunday, reestablishing the Catalan squad’s 11-point advantage at the top of the La Liga table.
It was the 13th consecutive match without a loss for Xavi Hernandez’s men, a more recognizable squad than in the recent past with the return of Frenkie de Jong and Pedri Gonzalez, although Atletico played well before the 81,000 fans at Spotify Camp Nou, especially in the first half.
The lone score came when Torres fired a powerful shot past Jan Oblak in the net for Atletico upon receiving a pass from Raphinha after – earlier – Robert Lewandowski and De Jong had been unable to find the twine with attempts of their own.
After the break, the visitors tried in vain to rekindle the fire they’d come out with early in the game, evinced in particular by a shot by Antoine Griezmann that hit the crossbar in the opening couple of minutes.
Lewandowski missed making it 2-0 despite a made-to-order opportunity late in play, but ultimately it didn’t matter because the Catalans still managed to stick it out until the final whistle for a key win.
It was a match, nevertheless, that was relatively lacking in inspiring play, with the referee dispensing 11 yellow cards – all but one in the final 30 minutes as the teams grappled, and including one for Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who couldn’t keep his rage in check at one spot in the contest.
The Barca win was not unexpected, especially given that Atletico has not managed to come out of Camp Nou with a victory in league play since 2006.
In other La Liga action, Mallorca took a big step toward avoiding relegation for the third consecutive season by coming back from being down a goal to defeat Getafe 3-1 with a brace by Kang In Lee and another one by team captain Antonio Raillo in an exciting match.
Enes Unal almost got the visitors on the board in minute 12 on a header that missed but Borja Mayoral hit pay dirt 10 minutes later on a shot that was deflected by Raillo past Rajkovic in the net.
Mallorca were lackluster in the first period, with a red card landing on goalkeeping coach Luisvi de Miguel for protesting what he claimed ought to be a penalty for a handball, although the ball had clearly hit Iglesias on the chest.
After play resumed, however, Lee got the even-up tally on a Morlanes shot that had been saved by David Soria, and in minute 63 it was Raillo who hit on a header for the 2-1.
From then on, it was Mallorca controlling the action, with Lee ultimately getting another past Soria in stoppage time for the final result.
Meanwhile, Sevilla – after derailing Manchester United’s Europe League hopes last week – grabbed a 2-1 win late in the match over sixth-place Villarreal as Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. It was Sevilla’s sixth consecutive unbeaten outing since Jose Luis Mendilibar took over the reins and they now sit in the 12th spot, for the moment a comfortable eight points above the relegation threshold.
It was Rafa Mir getting the Andalusian squad on the board before the break but Villarreal answered back with a point-blank move by Pau Torres that evened things up and there things stood as play rocketed back and forth throughout the second period, with Jesus Navas almost hitting for Sevilla but finally Youssef En-Nesyri making it 2-1 in stoppage time.
And Valencia nabbed a pair of goals on the road, blanking Elche – down in the basement – but it was not enough to get the 18th place squad out of the relegation zone, given that 17th place Almeria has a better one-on-one record.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Marcos Alonso (Eric Garcia, min. 61), Balde; Busquets, Frenkie De Jong (Kessie, min. 78), Gavi; Raphinha (Ansu Fati, min. 90+2), Lewandowski and Ferran Torres (Pedri, min. 61)
Atletico de Madrid: Oblak; Molina, Gimenez, Savic, Hermoso (Reguilon, min. 79), Carrasco; Witsel (Barrios, min. 60), Rodrigo de Paul, Lemar (Saul, min. 67); Correa (Morata, min. 60) and Griezmann.