Spanish champions Barcelona cut the gap on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga to five points with a 1-0 win over 10-man Las Palmas on Saturday. Raphinha headed home in the second half to clinch Barcelona’s victory after the visitors had goalkeeper Alvaro Valles dismissed after 24 minutes for a rash foul. Barcelona warmed up for their Champions League quarter-final clash against Paris Saint-Germain, their next match in 11 days’ time, with a straightforward victory, albeit by a tight scoreline.

Xavi Hernandez’s side are unbeaten in 11 games since the coach said he would leave at the end of the season and their recent form has given them some faint hope of retaining their title.

“We could have scored more, we had many chances to kill the game off,” said Xavi.

“It’s a summary of our season, we’re finding it hard to close out matches.”

Real Madrid face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu, aiming to restore their eight-point advantage on the Catalans in second.

“They’re three important points, we know they will be important at the end of the season,” Raphinha told Movistar.

“We’ll keep fighting until the end and we won’t give up until the league is over.”

Barcelona dominated the opening stages against Las Palmas with Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha both having goals ruled out for offside.

Polish striker Lewandowski hit the bar on another occasion as Xavi’s side strolled, although former Barca forward Sandro Ramirez threatened at the other end before taking a weak shot.

Las Palmas goalkeeper Valles was sent off after 24 minutes for rushing out of his goal and clattering into the busy Raphinha.

Lewandowski struck the bar again from Joao Cancelo‘s cross and Raphinha fired narrowly wide when he might have scored as Barcelona continued to press for the opener.

– Breakthrough –

With 10 men Las Palmas set up in a more defensive fashion and tried to frustrate the Catalans, although they again came close when defender Saul Coco smashed a vicious free-kick into the side-netting.

Winger Marvin Park, on loan at Las Palmas from Real Madrid, forced a smart low save by Marc-Andre ter Stegen a minute before Barcelona took the lead.

Joao Felix, on as a substitute, produced a glorious scooped pass into the area for Raphinha to head home his fifth La Liga goal of the season.

The Brazilian winger drew a VAR television screen in a sarcastic celebration, in reference to his earlier disallowed strike.

Felix should have doubled Barcelona’s lead when Jules Kounde rolled the ball across the face of goal for him but the Portuguese forward struck the crossbar when it seemed easier to score.

“There’s no need to talk about whether he’s starting for us or not, Joao Felix is important for us and he was again,” said Xavi, of the mercurial on-loan Atletico Madrid forward.

Ferran Torres made his return from a hamstring injury in the final stages, replacing teen starlet Lamine Yamal, who had a quiet night relative to his heroics for Spain against Brazil on Tuesday.

Lewandowski, booked for walking off slowly as he was replaced by Vitor Roque, will miss Barcelona’s next league match, against Cadiz — and return for the key Clasico battle against Real Madrid on April 21.

Earlier Saturday Sevilla beat Getafe 1-0 thanks to an early Sergio Ramos goal on his 38th birthday, while Valencia drew 0-0 with Real Mallorca and Osasuna thrashed Almeria 3-0.

– Racism row –

The game at Getafe was hit by controversy with Sevilla condemning “racist and xenophobic abuse” aimed at coach Quique Sanchez Flores and defender Marcos Acuna.

Referee Javier Iglesias Villanueva wrote in his report home fans yelled “Acuna monkey” and “Acuna, you come from monkeys” at the Argentina international, leading the official to briefly pause the match.

Sanchez Flores said he was called a “gypsy” by some home fans.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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