Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski scored a 93rd-minute winner in their 1-0 win over Valencia on Saturday to move level on points with Real Madrid in LaLiga.
With the game heading into what looked like a goalless draw, Barca’s Raphinha sent a cross into the box which was brilliantly headed home by the onrushing Lewandowski for the 13th goal. of the Polish player of the season.
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The result means Xavi Hernandez’s side, who were kicked out of the Champions League in midweek, have 31 points after 12 games – as do Real, who host second-placed Girona on Sunday.
“It was a very important win, especially because it came in the last minute,” said Xavi. “We didn’t stop believing. We played with some anxiety, being kicked out of the Champions League hit us hard.
“We tried to cut, but it’s difficult. We didn’t take good decisions. When we had to pass, we shot. And when we had to shoot, we passed. Yes it was a concern.”
Barcelona created several chances in the first half, but the Valencia keeper stood firm, and goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili denied Ansu Fati while Lewandowski also saw his header slide off the post.
The home side suffered a major blow 18 minutes into the period when their top scorer Edinson Cavani, who had scored four of the club’s goals in their previous three games, he came out with an ankle injury.
Valencia’s Samuel Lino thought he had opened the scoring four minutes into the second half and the Mestalla crowd erupted, but the referee waved it off after a VAR review when Marcos Andre touched the cross with his hand.
Barça’s Ferran Torres had a good chance to score against his former club, but failed to get a good connection with the ball from a few yards out. However, Lewandowski’s goal moments later ensured Xavi’s side walked away with all three points.
“The goal is about quality,” Xavi said. “Robert is there to make the difference. I thought it might be ruled out for offside at the pace we’re at now. But we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to make better decisions.
“It could have been a draw and it could have been a drama. It shouldn’t be like that. We’ve improved a lot, we’re on the right track, but there’s still more to come. [to improve].”
The Catalan club suffered a shock when French defender Jules Kounde went off injured in the 74th minute and was replaced by Gerard Pique, but Xavi said after the game it was nothing serious.
“Kounde made a big effort to come back from injuries quickly, we needed him,” Xavi added. “He heard, but I’m told it doesn’t matter. We’ll see tomorrow.”
Valencia manager Gennaro Gattuso has pointed to his team’s mistakes as their turnover, but says they are still on the right track.
“When you play against teams like Barcelona, you can’t make mistakes,” Gattuso said. “You have to keep going until the 96th minute. The team was brave. We only had two players to play in midfield. I have to congratulate the team for their attitude and their attitude.
“The team is still alive. We have to keep working, not talk too much, and work very hard.”