Barcelona needed a penalty kick in stoppage time to win 2-1 at Las Palmas and keep pace with leaders Real Madrid and Girona in the Spanish league on Thursday.
Ilkay Gundogan sent his shot from the penalty spot into the middle of the net three minutes into added time to keep Barcelona within seven points of leaders Madrid and Girona at the halfway point of the season.
Madrid, which is ahead of Girona on a tiebreaker, defeated Mallorca 1-0 on Wednesday, while Girona beat fifth-place Atletico Madrid 4-3.
“Everyone is having a hard time winning,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said. “Girona’s victory came in the last second, Madrid needed a goal off a corner in the 80th, and we did it with a penalty in the final moments. We have what it takes to win the league, you have to respect the defending champions.”
It was another poor performance by Barcelona, which ended last year with three setbacks before edging last-place Almeria in a match in which it was booed by its own fans after another lackluster outing.
Mid-table Las Palmas was in control in the first half and squandered several chances to take the lead. Barcelona went into the locker room at halftime with no shots on target.
“What was important was to get the three points,” Barcelona forward Ferran Torres said. “We couldn’t get the timing right with the last pass in the first half.”
The hosts loudly complained of the penalty that prompted the decisive goal and a red card to Daley Sinkgraven for an alleged push on Gundogan inside the area.
Munir El Haddadi, a former Barcelona player, had put Las Palmas ahead from close range in the 11th, and Torres equalized in the 55th from inside the area.
Las Palmas, winless in three matches, has not beaten Barcelona in 15 league matches, with five draws and 10 losses.
Barcelona defender Joao Cancelo had to be replaced because of an injury about 10 minutes into the match at Gran Canaria Stadium.
Vitor Roque, the 18-year-old Brazilian who recently joined Barcelona, made his debut with the club after replacing Torres in the 78th. Roque missed a couple of clear chances after Barcelona took the lead late in the game.
The start of the second half was delayed for a few minutes to fix the net in one of the goals.
Ramos argues with fan
Sevilla’s struggles continued with a 2-0 home loss to Athletic Bilbao, followed by Sergio Ramos getting into a verbal spat with a fan in his post-match interview.
The veteran defender was talking to a television reporter by the sideline when he angrily responded to a fan who was apparently yelling at him from the stands.
“Have some respect, we are talking. Respect the fans and the shield. Respect the fans and shut up now,” Ramos yelled.
“We have to endure everything. It’s the situation now,” he told the reporter. “We understand the frustration of the fans, it’s normal. It’s been a long time without winning, without giving them some happiness.”
It was the fifth defeat in Sevilla’s last six matches in all competitions, leaving the traditional club from southern Madrid in 16th place, one point from the relegation zone.
Sevilla has only one win in its last 13 league matches — at second-to-last-place Granada in December.
Mikel Vesga and Aitor Paredes scored a goal in each half for Athletic, which jumped to fourth place with its third straight league victory.
Athletic was already without forward Iñaki Williams, who will play with Ghana in the upcoming African Cup of Nations.
Almeria still winless
Osasuna won 1-0 against last-place Almeria, the only team yet to win in the league this season.
Ante Budimir scored a 27th-minute winner for Osasuna, which has won two of its last three matches after a six-match winless run.
It was the 14th league loss for Almeria, whose only victory this season came against lower-division club Talavera in the Copa del Rey.
Source website: www.thehindu.com