Barcelona suffered its third defeat in La Liga this season on Wednesday, losing 2-1 away to Rayo Vallecano.
Having seen Real Madrid beaten 4-2 by Girona 24 hours earlier, Barcelona had the chance to extend their imposing lead at the top of the standings to 14 points but, despite dominating in the statistics, they were the second best against a Rayo team that is now responsible for slightly less than 20% of the goals Barcelona have conceded in the league this season.
Xavi opted for a strong Barcelona line-up, with the omission of the suspended Sergio Busquets, their only change since the recent 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid, but they were vastly outclassed for much of the game.
Sergio Camello forced a clever save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen midway through the first half, but was unable to stop Álvaro García from opening the scoring two minutes later. Camel became a creator this time, playing his end for a fizzy shot into the back of the net.
Barcelona tried to respond quickly when Roberto Lewandowski’s shot was cleverly denied by Stole Dimitrievski, but Rayo soon regained their composure and regained control of the game, although they had to hold their breath when the Pole found the back of the net. at the end of the match. First 45 when the offside flag and subsequent VAR check came to the rescue.
A fast-paced start to the second half brought chances for both sides, but it was Rayo who made theirs count. Having seen Álvaro score earlier, namesake Fran García doubled the hosts’ lead eight minutes after the restart when he beat Ronald Araujo and past Ter Stegen.
Rayo’s relentless pressure didn’t stop and continued to cause a lot of problems for Barcelona, whose usual fluidity in the final third was also negated by a solid defensive block.
Barcelona finally beat the Lightning wall with seven minutes remaining when Lewandowski showed his poacher instincts to volley a deflection past Dimitrievski.
That goal appeared to restore Barcelona’s confidence and both Lewandowski and Raphinha came close to finding a late equalizer, but the damage was done as Rayo battled to three hard-earned points.
Ratings of Rayo Vallecano (4-2-3-1) players
PO: Stole Dimitrievski (7); RHP: Ivan Balliu (7); CB: Florian Lejeune (7); CB: Alejandro Catena (7); LI: Fran Garcia (8); DM: Oscar Valentin (6); DM: Unai Lopez (6); RM: Isi Palazón (7); AM: Oscar Trejo (7); LM: Alvaro Garcia (8); FROM: Sergio Camello (8)
Substitutes: Pathé Ciss (6), Salvi Sánchez (6), Pep Chavarria (6), Raúl de Tomas (N/A), Abdul Moomin (N/A)
Barcelona player ratings (4-3-3)
OP: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (5); RHP: Jules Koundé (6); CB: Ronald Araujo (5); CB: Marcos Alonso (6); LI: Alejandro Balde (5); DM: Frenkie de Jong (6); CM: Pedri (5); CM: Gavi (5); OR: Raphinha (6); ST: Robert Lewandowski (8); LW: Ferran Torres (6)
Substitutes: Ansu Fati (6), Jordi Alba (6), Franck Kessie (5), Pablo Torre (6), Eric García (5)
Man of the match – Álvaro García (Rayo Vallecano)