Well, well – the Barcelona winning train is not stopping in La Liga. Whether it is fair or not, Ronald Koeman’s side is enjoying a terrific run making the fans happier each match and slowly and steadily they are almost there to leapfrog Atletico Madrid and secure the top place.
Barcelona have cut 12 points off the leaders Atletico Madrid in the last two months after dropping just two points in their last 10 games, compared to the 14 dropped by Diego Simeone’s side.
Barca find themselves just one point behind Los Rojiblancos in the points table, with it seeming as though Barcelona have become the new favourites to go on and win the title. What’s more, on Saturday they will face ReaI Madrid in the second Clasico of the season at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
In a hard-fought affair, relegation-threatened Real Valladolid defended tooth and nail as a much-vaunted Barcelona attack was kept quiet for almost the entire game, still, they failed courtesy of a controversial referee decision.
Ronald Koeman opted to field the same starting XI that hung six goals on Real Sociedad prior to the international break, meaning a three-man backline of Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet and Frenkie de Jong, with Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba on the wings.
Meanwhile, Real Valladolid were missing 12 players in total, five due to COVID-19, making an already difficult task that much more complicated, but they started brightly and a Kenan Kodro header that smacked off the crossbar showed that the short-handed visitors had come to battle.
Real Valladolid were being physical with Lionel Messi and one rough-up led to a dangerous freekick that the Argentine curled just wide of the post.
In the first half Real Valladolid were looking more dangerous side, while Barcelona were lacking energy, precision and punch on both sides of the ball.
The home side still almost did sneak in a goal before half time, with a low shot from Pedri pushed onto the bar by Jordi Masip, who then swallowed up the ball before Messi could poke it into the net.
Outside of back-to-back chances for Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann shy of the hour mark, it was more of the same after the break.
Barcelona looked off-key, while Real Valladolid posed a threat any time they broke in transition, only to be felled by their lack of sharpness in the Barcelona half.
Real Valladolid had a shout for a penalty when a ball struck the fingers of Jordi Alba right inside the Barcelona area, but referee Santiago Jaime Latre and VAR concluded it was nothing to warrant a penalty – a crucial decision and it was in favour of Barca, which helped them very much.
Then Oscar Plano was shown a red card with ten minutes remaining.
“The referee was very harsh with Real Valladolid’s player for the foul on Dembele,” told the refereeing expert Juan Andujar Oliver.
“It’s not a red card; he takes him down low but not violently.”
To rub salt in the wounds of Real Valladolid fans, Andujar Oliver also believes that the 90th-minute goal shouldn’t have stood.
“It should have been ruled out,” the expert said.
“Because 10 seconds earlier there was a foul from Jordi Alba on Roque Mesa to win the ball back.”
Just when the match heading for a hard-fought draw in favour of Real Valladolid, shortly before the full time a De Jong cross floated into the area was headed on by Aruajo and the ball landed right to Dembele. He squeezed a volley inside the far post past Masip to give Barcelona the dramatic 1-0 victory.