Barcelona remain on top of La Liga with two games remaining as goals from Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez earned a 2-0 win over 10-man Real Betis.
On a day of high tension when all three title contenders were at one point top of the table, Antoine Griezmann came off the bench to score the winner in Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano yesterday to remain behind Barca solely due to their inferior head-to-head record.
Gareth Bale’s thunderous header 10 minutes from time kept an under-strength Real Madrid just a point behind the leaders in third in a 1-0 victory at Real Sociedad.
Barca need to win their two remaining games at home to Espanyol and away to Granada to be assured of retaining their title and were given a huge helping hand by Betis despite an unconvincing performance.
“I don’t think either of the other two are going to drop points so we have to win our games,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
“We need to concentrate on ourselves, be the best in attack and defence and resolve the game with the belief we have shown today.”
Betis defender Heiko Westermann was deservedly sent-off 10 minutes before half-time when he chopped down Rakitic to see his second yellow card in seven minutes.
Rakitic took advantage of more Betis generosity five minutes after half-time when he was left with the simple task to slotting into an empty net after German Pezzella and goalkeeper Antonio Adan failed to cut out Lionel Messi’s cross.
Suarez fired straight at Adan when gifted a golden chance by Messi to seal the points 17 minutes from time.
However, the Uruguayan made amends from another sensational Messi through ball eight minutes later to register his 54th goal of the season.
In San Sebastian, Bale inspired a Real Madrid side without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema to a 10th straight La Liga win.
“I am happy for him because he has had problems this season with injury, but when is fit you notice,” Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane said of Bale.
“We could have scored earlier in the first-half, but we had to work until the end against a difficult side.
“I am happy with the performance and to get three points once again.”