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Barca move closer to title

  • Published at 09:18 am April 15th, 2018
Barca move closer to title
Barcelona responded to the shock of being eliminated from the Champions League by AS Roma by beating Valencia 2-1 Saturday at the Nou Camp, setting a Liga record run of 39 games unbeaten and taking them ever closer to another title. Luis Suarez gave Barca the lead after 15 minutes, meeting a delicious outside-of-the-foot pass from former Liverpool team mate Philippe Coutinho and scoring with one touch from close range. Club-record signing Coutinho then delivered an outswinging corner from which Samuel Umtiti headed in Barca's second in the 51st minute, shortly after Gerard Pique had saved Umtiti's blushes by clearing a shot from Valencia forward Santi Mina off the line following a slip by the France defender. Captain Dani Parejo pulled back a goal for third-placed Valencia by squeezing an 87th-minute penalty under Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the Catalans withstood an exciting final spell to move to within seven points of their 25th league title. Ernesto Valverde's side lead nearest challenger Atletico Madrid by 14 points in the standing, with Atletico hosting Levante and fourth-placed Real Madrid visiting basement club Malaga Sunday. The Barca coach praised his players for putting the Roma defeat behind them but said their European exit had punctured their enthusiasm for the unbeaten record. With heavy rain falling in the city all day, 30,000 seats at the 99,000-capacity Nou Camp were unoccupied and even when Suarez provided a slick finishing touch to Coutinho's wonderful pass, celebrations were muted. Valencia had made a good start and winger Goncalo Guedes hammered an early shot at Ter Stegen, who made another impressive save to thwart the Portuguese later in the half after Pique had surrendered the ball. The German goalkeeper ran himself into trouble as he sent a pass straight at the feet of Valencia forward Rodrigo but redeemed himself by tipping the shot on to the crossbar and behind. Lionel Messi was inactive for much of the first half but grew into the game in the second, narrowly volleying over the bar and fizzing a shot just wide after tearing through the Valencia defence. Villarreal and Sevilla missed the chance to put pressure on fifth-placed Real Betis as they drew a thrilling game 2-2 at a sun-drenched Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, which saw a player from each side sent off and a missed penalty. Sevilla had exited the Champions League in midweek to Bayern Munich and things got worse as Dani Raba and Carlos Bacca scored either side of the interval for Villarreal and Wissan Ben Yedder was sent off. Jaume Costa was later dismissed for the visitor after conceding a penalty which Nolito squandered but the forward scored two minutes later and Steven Nzonzi buried an equaliser from long range in the 82nd. Villarreal are sixth on 48 points, Sevilla are seventh on 47, with Betis fifth on 52 after winning 1-0 at Girona Friday. RESULTS Sevilla 2 (Nolito 78, Nzonzi 82) Villarreal 2 (Raba 36, Bacca 68) Barcelona 2 (Suarez 15, Umtiti 51) Valencia 1 (Parejo 87-P) Las Palmas 0 Sociedad 1 (Oiarzabal 21) Leganes 1 (Martin 63) Celta 0 Athletic 2 (Garcia 47, Susaeta 72) Deportivo 3 (Adrian 6, 14, Valle 53)   SUNDAY'S MATCHES Eibar v Alaves, Atletico v Levante, Getafe v Espanyol and Malaga v Real Madrid
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