Barcelona endured all sorts of problems against the well-organized Real Valladolid side at Camp Nou on Monday night.
Sevilla’s 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on Sunday gave Barcelona a perfect opportunity to fight their way back into the La Liga title run-in.
Although Valladolid’s visit to Camp Nou appeared to be a routine task for Ronald Koeman’s men at first glance, things turned out to be quite different.
Sergio Gonzalez’s men looked compact at the back and agonizingly close to scoring through lightning-quick counter-attacks.
Lionel Messi and Co encountered massive difficulties penetrating the visitors’ water-tight defense, barely putting Jordi Masip to the test in the first 45 minutes.
In fact, Valladolid came closest to breaking the deadlock nine minutes into the game, but Kenan Kodro saw his towering header denied by the woodwork.
Although Barcelona stepped up their performance post restart, the Catalan giants struggled to create many clear-cut chances.
At the other end of the pitch, they almost fell behind after a potential foul-play inside Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s box.
After consulting with the VAR room, referee Jaime Latre decided against awarding a penalty for the Pucelanos, even though it was a clear hand-ball from Jordi Alba inside his 18-year box.
Only 14 minutes later, Latre gave Valladolid’s Oscar Plano the marching orders for a horrendous tackle on Ousmane Dembele.
It turned out to be the decisive moment of the match, as Barca took the matter into their own hands the second Plano left the pitch.
However, the home side had to wait until the 90th minute to overcome Valladolid’s stubborn defense, with Dembele hammering home a half-volley to propel the Catalans to all three points.
Barcelona now sit only one point adrift of table-toppers Atletico Madrid as they prepare for the upcoming El Clasico.
After succumbing to a 3-1 defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Koeman’s team will be looking to exact swift revenge on arch-rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.
Home comforts will be removed from that Alfredo di Stéfano-held fixture as Los Blancos continue to play their home games away from the Santiago Bernabeu.