MADRID (AP) — Barcelona kept its title-chasing momentum by beating Valencia 1-0 and increasing its lead over Real Madrid in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Raphinha scored a first-half winner for Barcelona, which missed a penalty from Ferran Torres early in the second half and then saw defender Ronald Araujo sent off.
The win at the Camp Nou stadium came three days after Barcelona defeated Madrid 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. The Catalan club took its league lead over Madrid to 10 points, increasing the pressure on its rival. Madrid plays at Real Betis later Sunday.
Barcelona had lost two in a row — against Manchester United in the Europa League and Almeria in the league — before coming up with the big Copa victory against Madrid at the Bernabéu.
Raphinha scored with a header after a well-placed pass by Sergio Busquets in the 15th minute. Torres missed the penalty in the 55th and four minutes later Araujo was sent off for stopping a breakaway.
Barcelona got the win despite still missing some of its top players, including Robert Lewandowski, the league’s leading scorer. Ousmane Dembélé and Pedri also didn’t play because of injuries, while playmaker Gavi was out because of a yellow-card suspension.
“We are not being effective up front and end up suffering to close out matches,” said Barcelona coach Xavi, who watched from the stands because of a suspension.
Valencia was trying to win two in a row after a run of six consecutive losses in all competitions. It came into the Camp Nou inside the relegation zone and missing several players because of injury, including veteran striker Edinson Cavani. It dropped to 19th place, two points from safety.
It was Valencia’s third game with coach Rubén Baraja in charge after he replaced Gennaro Gattuso. Singaporean club owner Peter Lim still faces protests from Valencia fans who accuse him of poor administration and not caring for the club’s interests.
Valencia unsuccessfully demanded a penalty kick when Fran Pérez was brought down by Barcelona midfielder Franck Kessié inside the area in the 85th.
Madrid, which drew 1-1 at home against Atletico Madrid in the previous round, will visit Betis without midfielder Luka Modric because of a yellow-card suspension. Betis will be missing two key playmakers because of injuries — Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales.
Madrid and Barcelona will play their final league game on March 19 at the Camp Nou.
Valladolid defeated Espanyol 2-1 in a match between two clubs trying to stay far from the relegation zone.
Iván Sánchez scored in the 25th and Álvaro Aguado in the 62nd for Valladolid, which moved to 14th place, two points clear from the drop zone.
Martin Braithwaite netted in the 87th for Espanyol, which was 12th but stayed with the same 27 points as Valladolid.
Valladolid hadn’t won in three straight matches. Espanyol had won two in a row.
Seventh-place Rayo Vallecano and eighth-place Athletic Bilbao drew 0-0 in a result that kept the clubs from moving up into the European qualification places.
Athletic nearly came away with the road win when Nico Williams’ stoppage-time shot struck the crossbar.
Both teams are winless in four straight league matches.