Barcelona clung on with 10 men to beat Valencia 1-0 and move 10 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday, thanks to Raphinha’s early header.
The Brazilian winger nodded the Catalans in front in the 16th minute. But after Ferran Torres missed a penalty and Ronald Araujo was sent off, the hosts were left fighting tooth and nail for the three points.
“The important thing is we keep adding points and we have three more,” Raphinha told Movistar.
“It’s hard to play with one less man, we did what we needed to, moved deeper and we pulled out the win.”
Barca retreated in the final half hour following Araujo’s 59th minute red card but survived to beat Ruben Baraja’s Valencia, who are 19th and two points from safety.
Barcelona’s 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg triumph over Real Madrid on Thursday followed two consecutive defeats, and this narrow victory felt like a significant step towards a first league title since 2019.
Madrid can cut the gap back to seven points later on at Real Betis, but were hoping a depleted Barcelona would stumble at Camp Nou.
Without top scorer Robert Lewandowski, midfield maestros Pedri and Gavi and winger Ousmane Dembele, the Catalans were unable to play their best football, but did just enough to win.
Along with Barcelona’s playing absentees, coach Xavi Hernandez was suspended too, watching from a box, with his brother and assistant Oscar in the dugout.
Valencia resisted early Barcelona pressure but came undone when Sergio Busquets lofted a pass into the area for Raphinha to meet with a cunning run and a header over Giorgi Mamardashvili.
It was Raphinha’s fifth league goal of the season and similar to his header against Osasuna which snatched Barcelona a vital win before the World Cup break.
Although the forward has not consistently shone since his move from Leeds United last summer, his goals in recent weeks have helped Barca cope with Dembele’s absence.