Barcelona 1-0 Valencia: Raphinha goal moves hosts 10 clear
Ten-man Barcelona battled to a nervy 1-0 win over strugglers Valencia at Camp Nou to move 10 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga.
Barca suffered a shock loss to Almeria in their last league game, prior to beating Madrid in Thursday’s Copa del Rey semi-final first leg, and were made to work hard by Valencia.
Raphinha put the hosts ahead early on but Ronald Araujo’s 59th-minute red card, shortly after Ferran Torres missed a penalty, set up a nervier-than-expected final half an hour.
Valencia had good chances either side of Araujo’s dismissal, but they failed to test Marc-Andre ter Stegen and remain two points from safety in the relegation zone.
Barca head coach Xavi was in the stands for this contest due to a one-game suspension and he would have had a perfect view of Raphinha’s impressive opener.
Sergio Busquets clipped the ball into the box and Raphinha timed his run to perfection to get in front of Giorgi Mamardashvili and glance the ball into an unguarded net.
Valencia should have been level before half-time, but Thierry Correia headed a big chance wide and Samuel Lino fired off target when Ter Stegen played the ball straight to his feet.
The visitors were given a let-off when Torres clipped the post from a penalty awarded for Hugo Guillamon’s handball, while Ansu Fati hit the inside of the post just a minute later.
There was then a further twist as Araujo saw red having pulled down Hugo Duro to prevent the Valencia striker charging through on goal after Jules Kounde headed the ball into his path.
Valencia had a late penalty shout rejected for Franck Kessie’s challenge on Fran Perez but ultimately failed to make their one player advantage count in the final 30 minutes.
What does it mean? Barca battle to victory
This was supposed to be a routine victory for Barcelona on the back of their midweek cup win against Madrid, but it proved to be anything but.
In the end, Raphinha’s fifth league goal of the season after 15 minutes was the difference between sides at opposite ends of the division and separated by 39 points.
Barca, who have now won five league games in a row against Los Che, extend their lead over Madrid to double figures ahead of Los Blancos’ trip to Real Betis later on Sunday.
Head boy Raphinha stepping up
Raphinha has now scored three headed goals in 23 LaLiga appearances for Barcelona, having previously failed to score any in 93 Premier League and Ligue 1 outings.
The Brazil winger has netted in half of Barca’s past eight outings, stepping up at a time when the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Robert Lewandowski and Pedri are all out.
Valencia fail to take advantage
This was the first time since March 2007 against Sevilla that Barcelona have both received a red card and missed a penalty in a single LaLiga game.
Araujo bailed out Kounde for his weak header to leave his side a player light, but Valencia did not register a shot on target until Justin Kluivert’s 95th-minute effort.
Barcelona travel to Athletic Bilbao for their next league match in a week’s time, while Valencia host Osasuna on Saturday.