Saturday, April 13, 2024

Raphinha on target as Barcelona edge past 10-man Las Palmas

SoccerNews in La Liga 30 Mar 2024

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Raphinha’s second-half goal helped Barcelona edge out 10-man Las Palmas 1-0 to close the gap on LaLiga leaders Real Madrid to five points.

Barcelona saw two goals chalked off for offside and Robert Lewandowski hit the bar but Las Palmas had goalkeeper Alvaro Valles red carded for a crude challenge on Raphinha outside his box after 25 minutes.

Xavi’s side were unable to initially capitalise on the extra man but Joao Felix came off the bench and provided a delicately-weighted ball over the top for Raphinha to head into the net in the 59th minute.

Felix could have given Barcelona some breathing room but conspired to hit the goal frame from point-blank range. However, the hosts extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 11 matches.

The Catalan giants were far from their best against mid-table opposition who are now winless in their last half-dozen league games but they have kept pressure on Real, who welcome Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Barcelona started strongly on Saturday night as Lewandowski was flagged offside before chipping over and then again after slotting home in the fifth minute, denying him a 21st goal of the campaign.

They had the ball in the net once more after 20 minutes when Lewandowski bore down on goal before teeing up Raphinha, who slipped inside and slotted beyond Valles only for the assistant’s flag to go up.

While Raphinha was onside when given the ball by Lewandowski, the Brazilian was clearly offside when his team-mate was originally put through and VAR upheld the official’s original decision.

If the hosts felt hard done by, they were given a boost when Valles was given his marching orders after rushing out of his goal and upending Raphinha, who had sprung the offside trap as he tried to latch on to Sergi Roberto’s through ball.

Valles and Las Palmas bitterly protested referee Mateo Busquets’ red card but the goalkeeper got none of the ball before cleaning out Raphinha and VAR backed the decision, leaving the visitors down to 10 players for more than an hour.

The dismissal led to the withdrawal of Munir El Haddadi and introduction of Aaron Escandell, who was soon beaten by Lewandowski’s header but the frame of the goal came to the goalkeeper’s rescue.

Raphinha drilled wide but despite all their dominance, Barcelona were given a major scare on the stroke of half-time when Saul Coco’s free-kick flashed fractionally wide.

Felix was sent on for Fermin Lopez shortly after the resumption and the on-loan Atletico Madrid forward had a near instant impact as his deft chip behind the defence led to Raphinha sweeping in and heading beyond Escandell to finally break Las Palmas’ resistance.

Barcelona went in search of a second and another teasing delivery from Felix was met by fellow substitute Ferran Torres, although his effort was well saved by Escandell.

Felix blotted his copybook by thudding against the crossbar inside the six-yard area, with the ball cannoning off Escandell’s right leg, the post then the substitute goalkeeper’s left leg before being cleared.

That miss might have come back to haunt him had substitute Alberto Moleiro found the right side of the net after cutting inside and lashing towards goal, but Barcelona were able to hang on and remain within distance of Real with eight matches of the season remaining.

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