Barcelona, Real Madrid keep La Liga race tight after securing victories

Barcelona maintained their lead at the top of La Liga after sealing victory at home to Getafe but Real Madrid kept pressure on them after defeating Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Xavi’s side were without suspended forwards Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres. However, Pedri’s well-worked fifth goal of the season sealed a 14th league win, thus briefly opening up a six-point gap over second-placed Real Madrid who responded with a 2-0 win.

Spain forward Ansu Fati, 20, struggled to fill in for leading goal scorer Lewandowski. Barcelona’s greatest threat came from out wide, from France’s Ousmane Dembele and Brazil forward Raphinha.

It was Raphinha – a summer signing from Leeds United – who unlocked the Getafe defence with a sweeping low cross from the left that Pedri side-footed home on the stretch in the 35th-minute.

Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen ensured the Barcelona defence maintained a record of conceding just six goals in the league this season, standing tall to block Borja Mayoral’s shot before the break after the visiting striker had seized on Pedri’s poor attempted back pass.

Getafe, who are 17th in the table, just outside of the relegation zone on goal difference, continued to frustrate their hosts after the break.

Substitute midfielder Franck Kessie had a snap shot saved late in the game and the home side were almost punished in the third minute of stoppage time, but former Real Madrid man Juanmi Latasa planted his free header straight at Ten Stegen.

Barcelona extended their unbeaten run to eight league games and will welcome back Lewandowski and Torres for Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal at home to Real Sociedad.

On the other hand, Real Madrid secured a priceless 2-0 victory after Karim Benzema broke the deadlock after 24 minutes of play.

It came against the run of play after the hosts had a number of early chances, with Aitor Paredes going close with a header. Inaki Williams also had a shot at Thibaut Courtois’ goal, but it fizzed beyond the left post.

Real Madrid had a penalty shout turned down when there was a melee inside the penalty area, however the referee determined that no foul had been committed.

Marco Asensio provided an assist for Benzema’s opening goal, heading the ball beyond the home defense into the path of the French forward. Benzema collected the ball well and fired the ball into the back of the net.

Nacho Fernandez had a chance to double the lead after an hour, but his shot was straight down the middle of the goal at Unai Simon.

Inaki Williams was a constant threat to the visiting defense, and he thought he should have been awarded a penalty in the second half. He was challenged by a defender, but the official decided that there wasn’t enough contact. Williams then had the ball in the net after the 78th minute, however the flag went up for offside.

But it was Los Blancos secured their 2-0 victory in the final minutes when Toni Kroos doubled Real Madrid’s lead. The German had the ball bounce to him from close-range and he hammered it into the bottom corner.

In another result that could affect the Champions League spots, Villarreal secured important three points thanks to penalty converted Dani Parejo just before the final whistle in the 11th minute of the injury time. They are now in fifth on the table but only because of goal difference after being levelled with Atletico Madrid on 31 points.    

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