Barcelona and Real Valladolid locked horns in what proved to be an important fixture in the La Liga title race. After Atletico Madrid's defeat against Sevilla, Lionel Messi and co knew they could close the gap at the top of the table to just one point, as they aimed to continue their good run of form in 2021.
They did just that, as Ousmane Dembele's stoppage-time volley sealed all three points for Barcelona after an intriguing contest at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi was honored before kickoff with a Barcelona jersey for breaking the record for the most appearances in the club's illustrious history. The Argentine has been in stunning form in 2021, but he was unable to break the deadlock after a tightly contested first 45 minutes.
Lionel Messi was caught on camera muttering something about the referee shortly after the half time whistle. As per Gerard Romero, the Barcelona captain seemed to suggest that the referee was trying his best to hand him a yellow card which would see him miss the crucial La Liga encounter against Real Madrid later this week.
"The referee wants to give me a yellow card so bad, it's unbelievable."
Nevertheless, Barcelona made a raft of substitutions in the second half, as they aimed to break the deadlock. Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Oscar Mingueza were withdrawn after the 60th-minute mark, as they made way for Martin Braithwaite, Ronald Araujo and Trincao. Barcelona also introduced Iliax Moriba late in the game, as the young midfielder replaced Pedri with 13 minutes left on the clock.
Real Valladolid were reduced to ten men near the 80th-minute mark, as Oscar Plano was sent off for what was adjudged to have been a dangerous challenge on Ousmane Dembele.
Lionel Messi and Barcelona close the gap at the top of the table
Just when the game looked like it could be heading towards a draw, Dembele decided the game in stoppage time with a crucial goal for Barcelona. The Frenchman has improved in recent weeks and scored arguably the most important goal of his career to put Barcelona firmly back in the title race.
Lionel Messi's side held on in the closing stages of the game and secured an important victory, as Ronald Koeman breathed a huge sigh of relief. With El Clasico on the horizon, Barcelona head into the game in a rich vein of form and will look to get one over their arch-rivals later this week.
Lionel Messi didn't get his name on the scoresheet, but he was named Budweiser king of the match for his spirited showing in the crucial 1-0 victory.
On that note, here are the best tweets from an important result in the La Liga title race.