Barca, Real Madrid rebound with wins after Copa eliminations
Three days after losing in the cup quarterfinals, Madrid routed Osasuna 4-1 and Barcelona edged Real Betis 3-2. The results kept leader Madrid three points ahead of second-place Barcelona.
Barcelona’s victory relieved some of the pressure still surrounding the club since coach Ernesto Valverde was replaced by Quique Setién at the beginning of the year.
“We could have done some things better, but I’m happy with our performance,” Setién said. “The team has been improving. It was a very important victory away from home, where we had been struggling.”
In its previous four matches on the road this year, Barcelona’s only win was at third-division club Ibiza in the Copa del Rey.
Setién was in charge of Betis the last time it had beaten Barcelona in 2018. That was the team’s only win in its last 18 league matches against Barcelona.
The Catalan club trailed twice on Sunday, rallying with three assists by Lionel Messi in a tense match in which both teams finished with 10 men. Betis’ Nabil Fekir was shown a second yellow card in the 76th minute and Barcelona’s Clement Lenglet was sent off in the 79th, also with a second yellow.
Lenglet had scored the winner just seven minutes earlier with a header off Messi’s free kick.
Betis opened the scoring just six minutes into the match with a penalty kick converted by Sergio Canales after video review saw a handball by Lenglet inside the area. Barcelona equalized three minutes later with Frenkie de Jong scoring from close range after a well-placed pass by Messi.
Betis went ahead again with a low shot by Fekir in the 26th after a blunder by Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal, but the visitors evened the match with Sergio Busquet’s close-range goal off a set piece taken by Messi three minutes into first-half stoppage time.
Barcelona lost 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa quarterfinals.
Betis, which has won only one of its last seven league matches, dropped to 13th place.
Real Madrid came from behind at Osasuna to also rebound from its Copa del Rey elimination against Real Sociedad on Thursday.
Osasuna took an early lead but Francisco “Isco” Alarcón and Sergio Ramos scored goals five minutes apart late in the first half and substitutes Lucas Vázquez and Luka Jovic added a pair of late goals in the second.
That home defeat to Sociedad in the Copa ended Madrid’s 21-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and halted its eight-match winning streak.
“We had to win after what happened in the Copa,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “It’s only three points, but they are very important three points.”
Sevilla threw away its lead late in the game with a 2-1 loss at Celta Vigo, again missing a chance to enter the Champions League qualification spots.
Youssef En-Nesyri put Sevilla ahead in the 23rd, but the hosts came back with goals from Iago Aspas in the 78th and Pione Sisto in stoppage time.
The victory ended Celta’s eight-game winless streak in the league. It moved the Vigo team out of the relegation zone and dropped Sevilla to fifth.
Young Sweden striker Alexander Isak added to his impressive scoring run by netting an 83rd-minute winner in Real Sociedad’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country derby.
It was the eighth goal in the last six games for the 20-year-old Isak, who had a brace in the team’s stunning 4-3 away win against Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
Athletic Bilbao was playing after its surprise win over Barcelona.
Cristian “Portu” Portugués put the hosts ahead in the Spanish league game in the 65th, with Iñaki Williams equalizing for Athletic six minutes later.
Athletic’s Iker Muniain was sent off with a straight red card for a hard foul in the 89th.
It was the fourth Sociedad win in the last five Basque Country derbies.
Both teams had struggled in the league recently, with Athletic entering the weekend winless in seven consecutive games and Sociedad having lost three of its last four matches.
The victory moved Sociedad to sixth place, while Athletic stayed ninth.
ESPANYOL’S HOME WIN
Striker Raúl de Tomás netted a 58th-minute winner to end the team’s winless run at RCDE Stadium, where it had lost seven matches and drawn four.
De Tomás, Espanyol’s most expensive transfer after joining from Benfica in January, has scored in each of his first five matches with the Barcelona club.
The victory was not enough to move Espanyol off the bottom of the standings.
It was the fourth consecutive loss in all competitions for Mallorca, which sits just inside the relegation zone.