Rayo Vallecano 2-1 Barcelona: Below-par Blaugrana condemned to shock defeat
Another flat Barcelona display was punished on Wednesday as Rayo Vallecano claimed a shock 2-1 win in Vallecas.FotMob - 5 months ago
Barcelona missed the chance to go 14 points clear at the top of LaLiga as goals from Alvaro Garcia and Fran Garcia fired Rayo Vallecano to a 2-1 win over the below-par leaders.
Real Madrid's 4-2 defeat at Girona on Tuesday gave Barca the chance to pull further clear at the summit, but Xavi's men started slowly and soon found themselves behind to Alvaro Garcia's low drive.
Barca's woes were deepened when Fran Garcia broke clear to finish after the break, and although Robert Lewandowski halved the deficit late on, the visitors were unable to find a leveller.
Boasting an 11-point lead over Madrid, Barca still appear destined to win their first league title since 2019, but the Catalan giants have dropped points in three of their last four games after another flat performance.
The first big chance fell to Rayo 17 minutes in, Sergio Camello bursting through after Pedri was caught in possession, only to be denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen when one on one.
Ter Stegen was unable to save Barca two minutes later, Alvaro Garcia drilling into the bottom-right corner after being found by Camello on the left-hand side of the area.
Stole Dimitrievski preserved Rayo's lead by smothering Lewandowski's dinked attempt, and the hosts escaped again on the stroke of half-time, as a VAR review confirmed an on-field decision to disallow the striker's left-footed finish for offside.
Barca found themselves 2-0 down seven minutes after the restart as Fran Garcia – who is set to re-join former club Real Madrid at the end of the season – raced clear to side-foot calmly under Ter Stegen.
Lewandowski ensured a nervy finish when he volleyed into the top-right corner after Franck Kessie's shot deflected into his path, but Rayo held on to claim a surprise victory.
What does it mean? Blaugrana stumbling towards finish line
Barcelona's first LaLiga title triumph of the post-Lionel Messi era has never looked to be in doubt since last month's Clasico victory over Madrid, but Xavi's team are stumbling – rather than cruising – towards the domestic crown.
The leaders have now taken just five points from the last 12 available to them in LaLiga, only managing one win in their last five matches across all competitions (D2 L2).
Iraola makes his mark
With Rayo retaining an outside chance of European qualification in a memorable campaign, boss Andoni Iraola has won plenty of admirers – notably being linked with Premier League strugglers Leeds United earlier this season.
Wednesday's win made Iraola the first coach in Rayo's history to avoid defeat in his first four top-flight games against Barca (W3 D1) – a record that will only increase interest in his services.
Barca midfielders uninspired
The prospect of Gavi, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong making up a three-man midfield looked an exciting one for Barca fans, but all three disappointed in a disjointed display.
Failing to create a single chance between them, the Blaugrana trio all found themselves substituted by the 80th minute – De Jong having missed a crucial interception in the build-up to Rayo's second goal.
Barcelona welcome Real Betis to Camp Nou in LaLiga on Saturday, while Rayo go to Elche on the same day.