MADRID (AP) — Barcelona couldn’t take advantage of Real Madrid’s setback, losing to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday and missing a chance to increase its Spanish league lead.
Barcelona lost 2-1 at Vallecas Stadium, keeping its gap to second-place Madrid at 11 points with seven matches remaining. It could have taken a huge step toward securing its first league title since 2019 if it had won a day after Madrid’s 4-2 loss at Girona.
Barcelona’s lead remains comfortable, though, especially with Madrid focused on the Champions League semifinals against Manchester City and the Copa del Rey final against Osasuna.
“They played a great match and deserved the win,” Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo said. ”We still have an 11-point lead, it’s a good advantage, and now we have two consecutive games at home and we have to win them.”
Barcelona’s next league games are against Real Betis and Osasuna at Camp Nou Stadium. It was coming off a home win against Atletico Madrid that ended a three-game winless streak.
“It wasn’t a good game for us,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. “We are upset because it was a good opportunity for us. It’s not over yet.”
It was the second win in three games for Rayo, which stayed in ninth place. It scored with Álvaro García in the 19th minute and Fran García in the 53rd. Barcelona got on the board late with Robert Lewandowski, who had scored only two goals in his last 10 matches entering the meeting with Rayo.
Atletico rebounded from its loss at Barcelona with a convincing 3-1 win against Mallorca at home.
Rodrigo De Paul, Álvaro Morata and Yannick Carrasco scored for Atletico, which cut its gap to second-place Madrid to three points. Second place is especially important because it guarantees a spot in the lucrative Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.
Atletico’s gap to fifth-place Betis, the first team outside the Champions Leagues spots, reached 14 points.
To celebrate its 120-year anniversary, Atletico played at the Metropolitano Stadium with a blue-and-white uniform reminiscent of its origins.
In a key match in the fight against relegation, Almeria won 2-1 at Getafe to move to 15th place, three points clear from the relegation zone. Getafe dropped to 17th, one point above the relegation zone.
Celta Vigo was up to 12th after a 1-0 home win against last-place Elche.
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