BARCELONA: Barcelona claimed a narrow 1-0 win over Valencia on Sunday, thanks to Raphina’s stand-alone goal, and moved nine points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Reigning champions Real, however, stumbled at Benito Villamarín later on and ended the frustrating week with a nil-nil draw against Real Betis.
Barcelona, who defeated the arch-rivals at home in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday, bagged three more points and cemented their claim on the La Liga title as they top the standings with 62 points after 24 games.
The home side at Camp Nou started strongly, led by Raphinha, who missed a couple of early chances before heading the ball over the goalkeeper off a superb long pass by midfielder Sergio Busquets in the 15th minute.
But, in the second half, Ferran Torres missed a penalty and Ronald Araujo was sent off to leave the hosts battling tooth and nail to maintain the lead.
At Seville, holders Madrid dominated the proceedings but could not find a way to break the deadlock against the threatening Betis.
Karim Benzema’s effort from a free-kick was disallowed while Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a string of fine saves to deny the French forward and Vinicius Junior.
Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was also put to test in the second half by Betis but made two superb stops while the game intensified.
In another Sunday’s La Liga fixture, Valladolid cruised past Espanyol 2-1 on the back of Ivan Sanchez and Alvaro Aguado’s goal in each half.