Barcelona‘s La Liga title hopes took a major hit after falling to Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday at the Estadio Nuevo José Zorrilla in Valladolid.
A first half goal from Italian Fausto Rossi was the game’s lone goal as the Catalonians suffered their first defeat to Valladolid since 2002. The defeat could leave Barcelona as many as four points behind league leaders Real Madrid, who meet Levante on Sunday.
Lionel Messi had two excellent chances while Neymar fired lamentably over with the goal at his mercy, but otherwise Barcelona were a shadow of their usual brilliant best.
Manager Gerardo Martino fielded a strong starting XI with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Pedro forming the attack up front. In midfield, Sergio Busquets was flanked by Xavi and Cesc Fàbregas, while in the back Adriano, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves assumed the responsibility of helping goalkeeper Víctor Valdés keep a clean sheet.
Fausto Rossi, the former Italy youth international, on loan from Juventus, profited from some lacklustre Barcelona defending when the visiting side failed to clear and the ball bounced off Javier Mascherano and into the path of Rossi, who finished competently past Victor Valdes with a first-time side-foot.
It was nothing less than Barcelona deserved in a largely miserable first half hour which was only briefly illuminated when Messi set off on what promised to be one of his classic runs, past a series of players, only for his firm effort to be tipped over by Diego Marino Villar.
The wasteful visitors appeared to have a renewed determination at the start of the second period as Messi raced past Marc Valiente before bursting into the box, but he still could not beat Marino, who saved with his knee. Neymar had a golden opportunity to level the score in the 57th minute when Messi slightly touched over a Fàbregas pass to the Brazilian, but the former Santos man was unable to hit the bouncing ball cleanly and fired well over the goal.
Barcelona finally started to work their way into the match in the final 15 minutes of the first stanza with several testing shots, but those were easily handled by Valladolid goalkeeper Diego Mariño. Overall though, it was a fruitless first half for Martino’s men whose flank play was completely shut down by a very stout Valladolid defense.
As Barcelona’s awfulness showed no sign of abating, Tata Martino introduced Sergi Roberto for Gerard Pique, who was on a yellow card, meaning Sergio Busquets joined Javier Mascherano at centre-back. The ineffectual Neymar was also swiftly removed to be replaced by Cristian Tello. The closest chance for Barcelona came on a Messi free kick in the 83rd minute that was snapped up by Mariño and then almost resulted in a counterattacking goal for Valladolid, but Óscar pushed his shot just over the crossbar.
Barcelona’s loss leaves Real Madrid a point clear at the top ahead of their clash with Levante, while Atletico will go second if they win in Vigo.
Valladolid, meanwhile, move out of the relegation zone, overtaking Almeria on goal difference.