Dembele shines as Barcelona cuts Atletico's lead to one point

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele struck in stoppage time to snatch a vital 1-0 win at home to Real Valladolid in La Liga on Monday.

Ousmane Dembele of FC Barcelona celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's first goal during the La Liga match against Real Valladolid CF at Camp Nou.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele struck in stoppage time to snatch a vital 1-0 win at home to Real Valladolid in La Liga on Monday and pull his side one point behind leader Atletico Madrid.

Valladolid produced a disciplined yet bold performance and could have taken an early lead when Kenan Kodro headed against the bar, while Roque Mesa had two clear sights at goal from outside the box but failed to hit the target each time.

Barca came close to scoring right before halftime when its former goalkeeper Jordi Masip palmed a strike from Pedri on to the post.

The keeper thwarted Dembele in the second half and then watched on in relief as Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound just wide.

The Catalans were dealt a helping hand when Valladolid's Oscar Plano was shown a straight red card in the 79th minute for a tackle from behind on Dembele.

 

The sending off was fiercely protested by the visitor, which had appealed for a penalty earlier in the second half when the ball struck the hand of Barca defender Jordi Alba. However, the referee decided the handball was accidental after a VAR review.

Barca finally took advantage of having an extra man when French forward Dembele caught a loose ball in the air with his left foot, slamming it inside the near post.

A sixth consecutive league win for Ronald Koeman's side took it back into second place and moved it on to 65 points, two above third-placed Real Madrid and one behind Atletico, which was beaten 1-0 at Sevilla on Sunday.

"This shows how difficult this league is and that we'll have to really fight in every game to win it," said Barca defender Clement Lenglet.

"We faced a great side, who played out of their skin. It was a really difficult game for us but an important victory. This run is all down to hard work, things weren't clicking for us earlier in the season, but now they are."

 

Real shame

Valladolid keeper Masip said his side left the Camp Nou "with a bittersweet taste", feeling pleased with its performance but aggrieved at not earning a point, especially after having Plano sent off.

"It's a real shame that all that hard work was thrown away because of a one-off incident," he added.

Koeman on the victory

"The team is capable of winning the games we have left, but today was also a reminder you always have to be at your very best, and you have to be clinical," Koeman told reporters.

"We weren't feeling fresh today, maybe because of the international break, but if we get back to how we were before, then we're capable of winning all our games."

"We didn't make a great start to the game, but we improved in the second half, we changed the system and made some substitutes and were a lot better," Koeman added.

"You have to give credit to the team for their mentality as they were always on the lookout for the three points. It was a very difficult game. We were not at the top of our game, but sometimes you have to know how to suffer, and in the end, we deserved the victory."