HomeSportsBarcelona take nine-point lead in Spain

Barcelona take nine-point lead in Spain

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MADRID, Spain (AP):

In three days, Barcelona have enjoyed seeing rival Real Madrid take two blows.

After beating Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Barcelona kept their title-chasing momentum in the Spanish league by defeating Valencia 1-0 and increasing their lead over second-place Madrid to nine points. Madrid couldn’t keep pace with the Catalan club later yesterday after being held to a 0-0 draw at Real Betis.

Raphinha scored a first-half winner for Barcelona, who missed a penalty from Ferran Torres early in the second half and then saw defender Ronald Araujo sent off.

Barcelona and Madrid will play their final league game on March 19 at Camp Nou.

“It’s not over yet,” Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez said. “We know it’s going to be tough, but we will fight until the end. We really think we can make a run.”

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 Bernabeu.

“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.

Meanwhile, Valladolid defeated Espanyol 2-1 in a match between two clubs trying to stay far from the relegation zone.

Ivan Sanchez scored in the 25th and Alvaro Aguado in the 62nd for Valladolid, who moved to 14th place, two points clear from the drop zone.

Martin Braithwaite netted in the 87th for Espanyol.

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.

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