After beating Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona continued their quest for the Spanish championship title with a 1-0 win over Valencia, increasing their lead over second-place Madrid to nine points. Madrid could not keep up with the Catalan club on Sunday, playing a 0-0 draw with Real Betis.
Rafinha scored in the first half for Barcelona, which missed a penalty from Ferran Torres early in the second half before being sent off by defender Ronald Araujo.
Madrid largely controlled the match against Betis, but Vinicius Júnior, Karim Benzema and Rodrigo failed to convert their scoring chances.
Barcelona and Madrid will play their last match in the championship on March 19 at Camp Nou.
It’s not over yet, said Lucas Vazquez of Madrid. We know it will be difficult, but we will fight until the end. We really think we can pull ahead.
Barcelona lost two straight matches – against Manchester United in the Europa League and Almeria in the championship – before picking up a big win in the Copa against Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Rafinha scored against Valencia with a header after a well-placed pass from Sergio Busquets in the 15th minute. Torres missed a penalty in the 55th, and four minutes later Araujo was sent off for stopping a breakthrough.
Barcelona secured the victory despite the absence of some top players, including Robert Lewandowski, the league’s top scorer. Ousmane Dembele and Pedri were also out due to injuries, while playmaker Gavi was suspended due to a yellow card problem.
We are ineffective up front and end up suffering at the end of games, said Barcelona coach Xavi, who was watching the game from the stand due to the suspension.
Madrid was without midfielder Luka Modric due to a yellow card suspension. Carlo Ancelotti’s team remains winless in three straight matches after beating Liverpool 5-2 in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16.
Benzema scored from a free kick in the 12th minute, but the goal was cancelled after video review because the ball deflected slightly off the hands of Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger.
Betis broke its three-match winning streak, but remained in fifth place, three points behind fourth-place Real Sociedad in last place in the Champions League.
Valencia tried to win two matches in a row aftere. after six consecutive losses in all competitions. At Camp Nou, the team found itself in the relegation zone and missing several players due to injuries, including veteran striker Edinson Cavani. Valencia is in 19th place, two points away from the safety zone.
This was Valencia’s third game under coach Ruben Barahi after he replaced Gennaro Gattuso. Singaporean owner Peter Lim is still facing protests from Valencia fans, who accuse him of mismanagement and a lack of concern for the club’s interests.
Valencia unsuccessfully demanded a penalty when Fran Perez was brought down by Barcelona midfielder Frank Kessier inside the penalty area in the 85th minute.
Valladolid beat Espanyol 2-1 in a match between two clubs trying to remain far from the relegation zone.
Ivan Sanchez scored in the 25th minute and Alvaro Aguado scored in the 62nd. Valladolid climbed to 14th place, two points clear of the relegation zone.
Martin Braithwaite scored in the 87th minute for Espanyol, which is in 12th place but remains with the same 27 points as Valladolid.
Valladolid had not won three matches in a row. Espanyol has won two in a row.
A disappointing draw
Seventh-place Rayo Vallecano and eighth-place Athletic Bilbao played to a 0-0 draw, preventing the clubs from ascending to the European qualifiers.
Athletic nearly pulled out an away win when Nico Williams’ shot hit the crossbar in regulation time.
Both teams are winless in four straight league games.