Despite playing down a man for over 30 minutes after Ronald Araújo's red card, Barcelona escaped with a 1-0 victory over Valencia at the Camp Nou on Sunday to keep second-place Real Madrid at a comfortable distance.
Valencia, mired in 19th and desperate for every point, were left fuming at referee Javier Alberola Rojas for his decision to look the other way when Franck Kessié clearly fouled Fran Pérez in the area in the 85th minute.
Rojas initially looked like he was about to blow his whistle and point to the spot, but then he gave Valencia a corner kick despite Kessié getting nowhere near the ball. The VAR stayed silent.
Was this a penalty for Valencia vs. Barcelona? pic.twitter.com/ccCIlTfp3h
— follow @LosB1ancos_ (@LoS_B1ancoS) March 5, 2023
El VAR vuelve a tomarla con el Valencia.Kessie traba a Fran Pérez dentro del área en su intento de puntear, sin éxito, el balón.
Alberola Rojas no apreció la infracción y el VAR se lavó las manos. ❌ pic.twitter.com/Rfl9oVRuIw
— Archivo VAR (@ArchivoVAR) March 5, 2023
It would've been a wild point for Los Che after Barça worked to secure all three points early.
The Blaugrana opened the scoring in the 15th minute through Raphinha. The goal was created by Sergio Busquets — I selfishly hope the 34-year-old fails to extend his contract and makes the move to MLS this summer. What a dime.
Sergio Busquets puts it on a silver platter for Raphinha pic.twitter.com/AlwSvYHndO
The game could've been over in the 55th minute but Ferran Torres (who began his career at Valencia) sent a godawful penalty off the post.
Ferran Torres misses the penalty pic.twitter.com/QZhLYOitpM
That miss was immediately compounded by Araújo's red card in the 59th.
Ronald Araújo is shown a red card for this challenge pic.twitter.com/D2bPaeIRG8
Valencia manager Rubén Baraja threw on his subs in search of the equalizer — including USMNT midfielder Yunus Musah in the 78th minute — but the penalty wasn't given and their finishing was otherwise wasteful. Maybe going toe-to-toe with the league leaders is a moral victory, but they don't have much time for those with only 14 matches remaining to save their season.
At the other end of the table, Barça has a 10 point lead over Real Madrid but Los Blancos play Real Betis later Sunday.