Champions Barcelona’s domestic strife continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Valencia in an absorbing La Liga game on Sunday, stretching their winless run in Spain’s top flight to four games and surrendering top spot to Sevilla.
The Catalans fell behind in the second minute at a bouncing Mestalla stadium after dreadful defending from a corner allowed Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay to stab home from close range.
Barca continued to leak chances but got a foothold in the game thanks to a superb Lionel Messi strike in the 23rd minute. They failed to further breach a superbly organised Valencia, however, racking up a run of three draws and a defeat in four league games, their longest stretch without a win since 2016.
Sevilla are top on 16 points while Barca have 15 with Atletico Madrid but are second due to a better goal difference. Sevilla beat visitors Celta Vigo 2-1 for a fourth straight victory. Midfielder Pablo Sarabia headed Sevilla in front six minutes before half-time and their task was made easier when Celta’s Mexican defender Nestor Araujo was sent off for picking up two bookings in the space of two minutes before the hour mark.
The hosts’ French striker Wissam Ben Yedder doubled their lead by nudging the ball home from close range in the 61st minute, although the goal needed to be verified by VAR before it was awarded.
Celta’s Sofiane Boufal scored with an impressive long-range strike in the 85th but it proved only a consolation for the mid-table visitors, who lost for the second time this season.
Atletico Madrid lie third after a 1-0 home win against Real Betis. Atletico saw little of the ball but kept Betis at bay with shrewd defensive work and had far more chances, with Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic hitting the woodwork, although they struggled to score until Diego Simeone shuffled his pack.
Kalinic, who started in place of the injured Diego Costa, made way for Thomas Partey while Correa came on for record signing Thomas Lemar. The Argentine won possession and played a one-two with Partey before arrowing the ball home in the 74th.
On Saturday, Real Madrid slumped to a shock 1-0 LaLiga defeat at Alaves, where Manu Garcia’s goal deep into stoppage time increased the pressure on Julen Lopetegui.
Los Blancos coach Lopetegui had called for a response from his side following the midweek Champions League defeat at CSKA Moscow and poor recent LaLiga form. However, despite enjoying long spells of possession, Real lacked a cutting edge in the final third.