Barcelona finally got things done, finding a late goal to end their winless run and enter the international break on a high.
Barcelona struggled again but Frenkie de Jong scored in the 87th minute to salvage a 1-0 win over relegation-threatened Alaves in the Spanish league on Sunday, ending their three-game losing streak which included the elimination from the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super. Chopped off.
The victory moved the Catalan club one point behind fourth-placed Atltico Madrid in the last Champions League spot, and 15 points behind league leaders Real Madrid with one game less.
Madrid needed a stoppage time goal from der Milito to secure a 2-2 draw at home to Elche. Madrid have a four-point advantage over Sevilla at the top after a difficult day for Karim Benzema, who missed a penalty and then had to be substituted through injury.
De Jong scored from close range to give Barcelona the much-needed win against Alavs.
It’s a crucial victory to keep us fighting at the top, said Barcelona coach Xavi Hernndez.
The international truce will do us good. We will be able to recover some players and work on our game.
Barcelona had won just twice in their last 10 away matches in the league, and had just drawn at Granada when they conceded in the 89th. He then lost to Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals and to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey round of 16.
This win gives us confidence to keep pushing hard and getting closer to our goals, said Barcelona defender Jordi Alba.
Barcelona were without the injured Ansu Fati and also without Ousmane Demb, who the club said was an absentee on the squad due to stomach ailments. Barcelona and Demb are at odds over contract negotiations.
American defender Sergio Dest made his first start since early December after recovering from injury and coronavirus.
Alavs are winless in their last 10 league matches, occupying the penultimate spot.
Benzema’s hard day
Benzema’s struggles began when he missed a close-range chance with only the goalkeeper to beat inside the box in the first half. Moments later he had another chance to put his team ahead from the penalty spot, but the French striker sent his shot over the crossbar.
To cap off an unusually frustrating day, Madrid’s top scorer had to leave the game in the 58th minute with an apparent muscle injury. He grabbed the back of his left leg as he made his way to the locker room. There was no immediate news on the severity of the injury.
Lucas Boy and Pere Milla scored a goal in each half to give Elche a 2-0 lead, but Madrid went close with Luka Modric’s penalty in the 82nd and leveled the game with a firm header from Milito on a cross from Vincius Jnior.
“It’s hard to bear,” Milla said.
“We had Madrid against the ropes but we couldn’t take advantage of it.”
Vincius, who also missed a few good chances, picked up a yellow card which will see him suspended from the next match.
Madrid beat Elche 2-1 in injury time on Thursday to advance to the Copa del Rey quarter-finals. Eden Hazard, who scored the winner in extra time, returned to the starting line-up on Sunday after failing to gain many minutes due to a series of injuries. Gareth Bale remained on the bench.
We can’t be happy with the result but there is merit in the way we came back to win the draw, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.
Elche moved five points from the relegation zone with the draw at the Santiago Bernabu stadium. He was without several players due to injuries and coronavirus infections, including coach Francisco Rodrguez.
Madrid great Paco Gento, who died aged 88 last week, was honored at the Bernabu ahead of the match.
Sixth-placed Real Sociedad were held by Getafe to a 0-0 draw at home, while mid-table Osasuna won 2-0 at Granada to end their 10-game league winless streak.