Madrid, March 6 (IANS) FC Barcelona defeated Valencia 1-0 to move nine points clear at the top of La Liga after Real Madrid drew 0-0 away to Betis.
Raphinha’s flicked header from Sergio Busquets’ pass in the 15th minute was enough to give Barca all three points for another below-par performance, reports Xinhua news agency.
Ferran Torres hit a 54th-minute penalty against the woodwork against his former club, and Ansu Fati also hit the post as Barca looked to double their lead before Ronald Araujo was sent off for a direct red card in the 59th minute after bringing down Hugo Duro when he was clean through on goal.
Valencia were unlucky not to get a penalty five minutes from time when Franck Kessie looked to have fouled Fran Perez on the edge of the Barca area, only for the referee to give a corner.
Barca’s win put the pressure on Real Madrid, who kicked off their visit to fifth-place Betis 10 points off the top of the table.
A 0-0 draw in the Benito Villamarin Stadium reduced the gap to nine points after a tight game where the best play was in midfield. Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois made a magnificent save to deny Betis striker Borja Iglesias early in the second half, while Real Madrid had a goal ruled out for handball by Antonio Rudiger.
Rayo Vallecano and Athletic Club Bilbao drew 0-0 in a rainy Vallecas Stadium in an even game where each side hit the woodwork. Alvaro hit the post for Rayo, while Nico Williams thundered a shot against the crossbar in injury time, moments before Oihan Sancet was sent off for a harsh red card, which will see him suspended next week against FC Barcelona.
Valladolid took three vital points with a 2-1 win at home to Espanyol after an impressive performance.
Ivan Sanchez and Alvaro Aguado put Valladolid 2-0 ahead with goals in the 24th and 61st minute of the game, although Martin Braithwaite’s effort five minutes from time left a nervous end to the game for the home side.
Diego Simeone celebrated a new record of 612 games in charge of Atletico Madrid as his side thrashed Sevilla 6-1 to move into third place on Saturday night.
Two goals in three first-half minutes from Memphis Depay put Atletico 2-0 up before Youssef En-Nesyri pulled a goal back for Sevilla in the 38th minute.
Atletico sealed the win with second-half goals from Antoine Griezmann, Yannick Carrasco and two from substitute Alvaro Morata.
Real Sociedad slipped to fourth after a 0-0 draw at home to Cadiz on Friday night, while Villarreal strengthened their hold on a European place after a 2-0 win away to Almeria.
Almeria were confident after last weekend’s 1-0 win at home to Barcelona but were outplayed by Villarreal, who sealed the points with goals in the last 15 minutes from Gerard Moreno and Jose Luis Morales.
There was a ‘game of two halves’ in Getafe, who led Girona 3-0 at the break with two goals from Enes Unal and one from Borja Mayoral. However, Girona fought back with goals from Valentin Castellanos and Miguel Gutierrez were close to a point.
Lucas Boye’s 87th-minute goal stunned Mallorca to give bottom-of-the-table Elche their second win of the season, with the home side seeing a 95th-minute equalizer ruled out by VAR.