BARCELONA, (Reuters) – Barcelona striker Ousmane Dembele hit stoppage time to capture a crucial 1-0 victory at home to Real Valladolid in La Liga yesterday to pull his side one point behind leaders Atletico Madrid.
Valladolid produced a disciplined but bold performance and could have taken the lead early when Kenan Kodro pitched against the bar, while Roque Mesa had two clear goals on goal from outside the box but failed to reach always the target.
Barca came close to scoring shortly before half-time when their former keeper Jordi Masip struck a strike from Pedri on the post.
The ‘keeper blocked Dembele in the second half and then watched on in relief as Antoine Griezmann led the rebound slightly wide.
The Catalans were dealt a helping hand when Oscar Plano was shown a straight red card by Valladolid in the 79th minute for a tackle from behind on Dembele.
The dispatch was fiercely resisted by the visitors, who had appealed for a penalty kick earlier in the second half when Barca defender Jordi Alba was hit by the ball. However, the referee ruled that the handball was accidental after a VAR review.
Barca finally took advantage of an extra man when French forward Dembele caught a free ball in the air with his left foot, slamming it inside the near post.
A sixth consecutive league win brought Barca back to second place and moved them to 65 points, two above third-placed Real Madrid and one behind Atletico, beaten 1-0 in Seville on day Sunday.
Barca will visit Real Madrid next Saturday with the opportunity to top the table a day before Atletico visit Real Betis.
“My feeling from the dugout was that we can always win the game right until the end. The players proved they always had faith until the last minute, ”said Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
“Sometimes you really have to suffer and that’s a good thing too. La Liga is also about suffering. ”
PRAYERS TO DEMBELE
The Dutchman also praised Dembele, who was stunned by injuries and criticized for lack of professionalism in his first few years in Barca but has reached the best form of his career this season.
“It’s vital for us to be at the top of his game, he gives us a lot in terms of challenging opponents and he can play across the front line,” said Koeman.
“You can play in different ways when he’s in the team and today he scored the goal we needed.”
Barca defender Clement Lenglet added: “This shows how difficult this league is and that we will have to fight in every game to win it.
“We faced a great side and played out of their skin, it was a very difficult game for us but an important win. Hard work is responsible for this run, things didn’t click for us earlier in the season but now they are. “
Valladolid goalkeeper Masip said his side left the Camp Nou “with a bitter taste”, feeling proud of their performance but offensive on not earning a point, especially after Plano was sent away.
“It’s a great shame that all that hard work was thrown away because of a one-off event,” he added.