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A Robert Lewandowski goal right in the nick of time has earned Barça three points from a tricky, incident-packed game.
Although Barça had looked the better side throughout, both sides had chances, both sides lost key players to injury, both sides had goals disallowed and both sides had ultimately failed to score in a game that looked headed for a no-score draw.
We were into the third minute of injury time when the Pole finally delivered the goods. A huge sigh of relief from Barça fans worldwide, and they will go to sleep as joint leaders of Liga pending what Real Madrid achieve against Girona tomorrow.
Garcia and Jounde hurt
Right from the word go, Barça had the upper hand and by half-time were clearly leading the shot count, 7-2, but the only time the ball had found the net, a fine Ansu Fati finish on 23 minutes, the goal was ruled out for offside.
Frenkie de Jong came close to scoring, and Lewandowski came even closer, hitting the ball onto the post moments before the break.
The home side suffered a major blow when top scorer Edinson Cavani had to withdraw injured. But Barça had problems of their own, but in defence, with Eric Garcia having to be withdrawn with a groin problem and Jules Kounde also being forced to retire in the second half.
That second half brought a lot more proactivity from a home side that was starting to really believe they could get something out of this game. They issued an especially big warning when Mestalla celebrated Lino’s opening goal only for their joy to be short-lived when VAR verified there had indeed been a very clear handball in the build-up.
But Barça were still very much in the game and should have had it with five to go. Pedri laid Ferran Torres up with a fabulous chance from a couple of metres out but not only did he fail to connect properly, but Raphinha skied the rebound.
Lewandowski does it again!
It just didn’t look like this was going to be Barça’s day. Three minutes into injury time and we were beginning to resign ourselves to the fact that this game was going to end the way it began. But Barça are a team that keeps battling right until the end, and you can never count a late surprise…
And that surprise came in the third minute of injury time, and a lovely one it was too!
Raphinha lofted the ball brilliantly into the danger area and it was Lewandowski’s outstretched leg that got there first… His thirteenth goal of the season and perhaps the most important of all. Instead of one point, Barça are coming home from Mestalla with three!
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