Barcelona squandered a golden opportunity to extend their lead at the top of La Liga as they were beaten 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday thanks to goals in each half from Alvaro Garcia and Fran Garcia.
With seven games remaining, Barca top the league with 76 points, 11 ahead of second-placed Real Madrid, who were stunned 4-2 at lowly Girona on Tuesday. Rayo Vallecano is ninth with 43 points, four adrift of the European qualification spots.
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“We didn’t play well, we never felt comfortable in the game,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said. “We had our chances, we didn’t take and then the second goal really punished us. We tried until the end, but Rayo were deserved winners. The result really bothers us but it’s another game week down.
Regarding the title, Race, Xavi added: “The message is simple: there is still a long way to go. Nothing has been done yet. La Liga has not been won, I have said many times. It will take a lot to win it.
“Every game away from home is a battle. Madrid are losing games, Atletico are scraping to win, we lost… but we’re upset because it was a really good chance to increase the gap.”
Rayo ended Barca’s seven-match league unbeaten run with a gutsy performance in front of their sold-out Estadio de Vallecas fans.
They were the better team for most of the match against Slapdash Barca and opened the scoring in the 19th minute after Sergio Camelo challenged Gavi and quickly fed Alvaro Garcia, who rifled an unstoppable low shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Rayo came back on top in the second half and extended their lead in the 52nd minute thanks to a superb effort from Fran Garcia, who stole the ball from Frenkie de Jong in midfield and raced through the heart of the Barca defense to score neatly. Finish past Ter Stegen.
Camelo missed another great chance in the 64th minute and Unai Lopez also wasted another chance to extend Rayo’s lead shortly after.
However, Barca cut the deficit through Lewandowski, who latched on to a loose ball inside the box and into the net in the 83rd minute.
It provided a consolation, but Rayo held on to secure the win.
“You have to do a lot and there’s that element of luck to beat Barca,” Rayo coach Andoni Iraola said. “We made the game uncomfortable for them. We were dangerous in transition. Both goals came from winning the ball back and then attacking quickly.
Now we can say that we will be here [in LaLiga] Again the next season with 43 points.”
Information from ESPN’s Sam Marsden contributed to this report.