Barça recovers the leadership of La Liga, Griezmann beats Atlético

Barcelona’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal with Barcelona’s Spanish forward Ferran Torres during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Cadiz CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, ​​​​on February 19, 2023. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

Goals from Robert Lewandowski and Sergi Roberto helped Barcelona beat Cádiz 2-0 and regain their eight-point lead at the top of La Liga on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Antoine Griezmann’s superb goal helped Atlético Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to strengthen their grip on fourth place.

Champions Real Madrid’s victory in Osasuna on Saturday brought them closer to Xavi Hernandez’s Barca, who had their eye on Thursday’s Europa League play-off second leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

However, an inspired Ferran Torres helped Sergi Roberto equalize and Lewandowski added a second to leave Cádiz, 17th, two points above the relegation zone.

The visitors had two Roger Martí goals disallowed and troubled Barcelona at times at the Camp Nou, but their victory rarely seemed in doubt.

Xavi started with Sergi Roberto in midfield, replacing Pedri, who suffered a thigh injury in the 2-2 Europa League first leg draw with Manchester United on Thursday.

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The manager passionately defended the Catalan after the match, saying he was a player often used as a scapegoat.

“I have heard the most unfair criticism (directed at him) in my life,” Xavi told reporters.

“He is a youth player, with a spectacular attitude, always trying to help the team, he is selfless”.

However, it was the arrival of Torres that made the key difference for Barcelona in the first half.

The winger has struggled at times this season, but with Ousmane Dembele injured and Raphinha rested to face United, he seized his opportunity with both hands.

Torres was hyperactive, dribbling past defenders with pace and putting the Cádiz defense in knots.

One of those runs down the right saw him cross Lewandowski in the 43rd minute and although the Polish forward saved the shot, Sergi Roberto was on hand to finish off the rebound.

Three minutes later, Barcelona doubled their lead when Lewandowski collected the ball on the edge of the Cádiz box and fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

“I work to show my football, it is true that I have not had many minutes and (I have not been as) important in the team,” Torres told Movistar.

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“Every time the coach gives me his confidence, I go out to show him what I have.”

Some Barcelona fans chanted Torres’ name in response to his electric performance, rooting for the striker after his difficult spell.

“I am proud that they are chanting my name,” he added. “There is still work to do, the hard part is maintaining it.”

Barcelona took their foot off the accelerator in the second half, although Lewandowski finished off the top of the bar.

The top scorer in La Liga with 15 goals, Lewandowski hasn’t been at his best since the World Cup, but seems to be slowly coming back to it.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen kept another clean sheet as Barcelona conceded just seven goals in 22 games in La Liga.

In Europe, it’s been another story, with Xavi hoping his side can show more solidity at the back against Man United than they did in the first leg.

classic shirts

Atlético’s win over Athletic helped them cut the gap to third-place Real Sociedad to two points after the Basque side drew on Saturday.

Athletic played with their classic kit of red and white stripes and Atlético with the away shirt, although Diego Simeone’s men played at home at the Estadio Metropolitano.

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The hosts wanted to pay tribute to celebrate Athletic’s 125th anniversary, as Atlético was formed as a branch of Athletic in 1903.

Griezmann made the difference in a close clash in the 73rd minute when he combined with Depay.

Both exchanged passes and Griezmann got into the area to score his seventh league goal of the season.

Rayo Vallecano and visiting Sevilla shared a 1-1 draw, with the sixth-placed hosts unable to put maximum pressure on the top teams in their quest to secure European football next season.

Sevilla have struggled on the road in recent weeks, while their home form has helped them climb to mid-table after a poor start to the season.

Jorge Sampaoli’s men took the lead when a long shot from Suso deflected off Óscar Valentín, but Florian Lejeune headed in after a corner to level.

Sergi Darder’s late goal gave Espanyol a 1-0 win at bottom-table Elche.


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