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Following Atlético Madrid’s defeat at Sevilla the day before, Barça knew that a victory against Valladolid would put them within just a single point of the leaders. But what some may have expected to be a routine win against a side that’s only won five games this season proved a painstaking task, and it wasn’t until the very end that Ousmane Dembélé finally broke the deadlock to earn three absolutely vital points a week before the trip to Madrid to take on Zinedine Zidane's side.
Barça were uncharacteristically insipid in the first half, unable to get their game flowing and struggling to find a way through the five-man Valladolid defence, and only really coming close when former blaugrana Jordi Masip turned a Pedri effort onto the post.
The visitors often looked the better side, for they not only defended well but also proved a handful to deal with on the counter attack. Janko and Nacho were causing all kinds of trouble down the wings, Kenan Kordo (son of former Barça striker Meho) thundered a spectacular header into the bar and Roque Mesa very nearly scored too.
Still no goals
Surely Valladolid couldn’t keep up such defensive intensity much longer? But they did. Barça found themselves in plenty of fine positions, but there always seemed to be a violet and white shirt in the way. Or otherwise the hands of Masip, who produced an especially fine save to deny Dembélé.
And there were scares aplenty at the other end too. Indeed, Olaza looked to have scored but thankfully the ball stroked the outer side of the netting.
Against ten men
A lifeline was thrown Barça’s way when Oscar Plana was red carded for a late tackle on Dembélé. The last ten minutes would be played against ten men.
Barça pushed forward in search the elusive goal. Valladolid did everything they could to keep the ball away from the danger zone. And although Trincao had the most golden of chances, but slipped at the crucial moment, the visitors were remarkably adept at limiting Barça’s late flurry to half chances.
Dembélé to the rescue!
And just when it looked all over, De Jong floated the ball through the area. Araujo got the slightest of touches, and there was Dembélé at the far post … and in it went! A HUGE sigh of relief from culers worldwide.
All credit to Valladolid. They battled long and hard. But Barça got there in the end – and now bring on El Clásico!
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