MADRID (AP) — With a statement win against Sevilla, Barcelona showed it wasn’t giving up yet in the fight for the Spanish league.
Barcelona’s revamped team under coach Xavi Hernández kept its momentum and moved into second place for the first time this season after beating Sevilla 1-0 at home on Sunday.
Pedri González broke the deadlock by scoring a beautiful goal in the 72nd minute at Camp Nou Stadium to move the Catalan club past Sevilla and keep its slim title hopes alive.
The result left Barcelona 12 points behind leader Real Madrid but it has a game in hand. Madrid salvaged a 2-1 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday with a couple of goals by the league scoring leader Karim Benzema.
“We will keep fighting until the math shows that we have no chance,” Xavi said. “We were hoping (Madrid) would have stumbled yesterday but it didn’t happen.
Xavi has slowly turned Barcelona into a competitive squad again in his first year with the club. Barcelona has the same points as Sevilla and defending champion Atlético Madrid, which won at Alavés 4-1 on Saturday. Sevilla dropped from second to fourth because of the head-to-head tiebreakers.
Barcelona hadn’t been as high as second after a tough start to its first season without Lionel Messi. It reached the top three only a few rounds ago.
Barcelona has won eight and drawn one of its last nine matches in all competitions. It hasn’t lost in 13 consecutive games.
Sevilla had been second since the 16th round but gradually lost ground. It had drawn its last three in a row.
Barcelona was mostly in control but struggled to create significant scoring chances. Veteran defender Gerard Piqué almost opened the scoring with a header that struck the crossbar in the 69th. Pedri finally got the winner by faking his shot twice outside the area before firing in a low strike.
The match came a few hours after the club ratified an agreement with Spotify for at least 12 seasons. The agreement, initially announced in March, was approved by 89% of votes in Sunday’s general assembly.
BETIS STAYS NEAR TOP
Real Betis routed Osasuna 4-1 to stay within range of the final Champions League place.
Juanmi scored twice and William Carvalho and Álex Moreno added a goal each for the hosts’ second victory in the last nine matches in all competitions.
The result left Betis four points behind Sevilla, Atlético and Barcelona.
ATHLETIC WINS AGAIN
Athletic Bilbao ended a two-match winless streak with a 2-1 win over Elche to stay in eighth place, near the European spots.
It was the fourth loss in five matches for Elche, which is six points above the drop zone.
Mid-table Valencia was held at home by relegation-threatened Cádiz to 0-0, while 10-man Rayo Vallecano was held at Granada to 2-2 after conceding a penalty kick four minutes into stoppage time.