Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano 3-0 in their final home game of the season on Sunday to secure second place in LaLiga.

An early Robert Lewandowski goal and a quick-fire double from Pedri got the job done for the Blaugrana.

The result moved Barcelona to 82 points, four points above Girona, who won 3-1 away at Valencia.

Champions Real Madrid are 12 points above Barca with one more round of games left.

Barca took the lead in the third minute when Lamine Yamal, on his 50th appearance, cut in from the right wing and chipped the ball to Lewandowski, who expertly controlled the pass with his chest and volleyed home.

Although Rayo had their chances to level, Barcelona doubled their lead with some magical footwork from Joao Felix who saw his shot saved but Pedri managed to score from the rebound to give the home side a two-goal cushion.

Barely three minutes later, Pedri spotted a gap in Rayo's high defensive line and he was put through on goal with a long ball from centre-back Ronald Araujo, allowing the 21-year-old to fire home and double his goal tally for the season.

Barca will finish their season away at Sevilla next weekend while Rayo, who are 16th, host Athletic Bilbao.

Data Debrief: Lewy hits 25, again

Lewandowski has now scored 25 goals in all competitions this season.

He has netted at least 25 times in all competitions in each of the last 11 seasons, three campaigns more than any other player in top five European leagues over that period.

Barcelona coach Xavi says he still has the club's trust, despite a steady stream of media reports president Joan Laporta may be minded to sack him.

"I understand the noise but that changes nothing," Xavi told reporters on Saturday after a training session ahead of his side's game against Rayo Vallecano.

The manager added that his focus was on winning the three points and "the team has an extraordinary base to compete."

"We'll sit down with the president and if we have to talk about anything, we'll do that," he said about rumours of Laporta's loss of confidence in him. 

"But everything is the same as it was three weeks ago. If there are any changes we'll let you know."

Despite being a club great and winning LaLiga last season, Xavi has been under pressure this campaign after Barcelona failed to catch Real Madrid, who have already secured the title.

In January, Xavi said he would resign at the end of this season, but last month he sat down with club officials and agreed to honour the last year of his contract until mid-2025 - with a series of unspecified conditions set by the club.

However, Xavi told reporters on Thursday that the club's situation is difficult, especially in economic terms, and it was tough to compete with the likes of Madrid, in comments that reportedly angered Laporta.

The club has a bloated wage bill, while a $1.6 billion euro ($1.7 billion) renovation project is also underway at the Camp Nou stadium.

Girona boosted their hopes of sealing a Champions League qualifying berth as they returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano.

Viktor Tsygankov’s effort early in the second half and two injury-time strikes from Savio ensured the early LaLiga pace-setters snapped a run of two straight losses and leapfrogged Barcelona back into second place.

The ailing visitors, who went into the game without a win in six, had their chances but had Pep Chavarria sent off for two yellow cards in the 76th minute and slid to another disappointing defeat.

Girona had shown few early signs of ending their poor run of form with Paulo Gazzaniga called into action early as he raced from goal to deny Rayo striker Alvaro Garcia a one-on-one.

The hosts gradually improved and came close through Yangel Herrera who had a good shot blocked in the box, before Artem Dovbyk missed a golden opportunity when he was found unmarked in front of goal.

Tsygankov brought a fine save out of Rayo keeper Stole Dimitrievski in the 51st minute but notched the opener moments later when he swept home from a neat cut-back in the box by Miguel Gutierrez.

Dovbyk missed another glorious chance to add Girona’s second from point-blank range and it almost cost the hosts as the excellent Miguel Crespo played in Garcia who hit a poor shot that was easily saved by Gazzaniga.

Chavarria was dismissed for two yellow cards in as many minutes as Rayo’s frustrations began to tell, and after Dimitrievski saved well to deny Cristhian Stuani, Savio put some gloss on the final scoreline with a well-taken double in added time.

Real Madrid’s title push faltered in the absence of injured top scorer Jude Bellingham as they surrendered a lead to draw 1-1 at struggling Rayo Vallecano.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men looked set to cruise to victory against their lowly city neighbours following a third-minute finish from Joselu.

But the LaLiga leaders missed the chance to move eight points clear after Raul de Tomas’ 27th-minute penalty earned Rayo a deserved derby point in their first match under new boss Inigo Perez.

Real’s advantage at the top could be cut to three points on Monday evening when nearest challengers Girona travel to fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao.

An underwhelming outing for the 14-time European champions was compounded in added time by the dismissal of substitute Dani Carvajal for two quickfire yellow cards.

Following a 1-0 Champions League win at RB Leipzig, Real were once again without 20-goal England star Bellingham due to an ankle issue as they made the short trip to out-of-form opposition who changed head coach in midweek.

Rayo appointed 36-year-old Perez on Wednesday after sacking Francisco Rodriguez the previous day on the back of just one win in 14 league games dating back to October.

The hosts endured a nightmare start to the new era as Real edged ahead inside three minutes thanks to a rapid counter-attack.

After visiting goalkeeper Andriy Lunin survived a nervy moment, Brahim Diaz released Federico Valverde down the right and his low cross was dispatched into the bottom right corner by a first-time finish from the unmarked Joselu.

Former Stoke and Newcastle forward Joselu, who was forced to wait for an incorrect offside call to be overturned for his opener to be awarded, had the ball in the net again in the 19th minute.

However, on this occasion, his close-range header was ruled out as the assistant referee was correct in adjudging the ball had gone out of play prior to Valverde crossing from the right.

Real at that stage appeared in complete control but Rayo took advantage of a VAR-awarded spot-kick to level.

Replays showed Oscar Trejo’s powerful effort was deflected over by the right fist of Eduardo Camavinga and former Real forward De Tomas confidently converted high down the centre of the goal to open his account for the season.

Real struggled to regain their rhythm, albeit the lively Valverde struck the outside of the left post with a long-range volley after Luka Modric’s corner was partially cleared.

Defensive dithering from Aurelien Tchouameni almost let in Alvaro Garcia immediately after the restart as Real’s unconvincing afternoon continued.

The away side enjoyed plenty of possession but lacked penetration as time ticked away.

Toni Kroos brought a superb save out of Rayo goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski with a direct free-kick from distance, while fellow Real substitute Rodrygo had penalty appeals waved away after going to ground easily.

Spain full-back Carvajal, who came on in the 75th minute, then departed prematurely after petulantly lashing out at Kike Perez.

And the lacklustre visitors could have few complaints about dropping points for only the sixth time this season as Rayo marked the start of Perez’s reign with a surprise result.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti insisted he has no intention of letting speculation over Kylian Mbappe’s arrival at the club take his focus away from the job at hand.

Real are seen as the most likely destination for the French striker, who has informed Paris St Germain he intends to leave in the summer, but Ancelotti was careful not to fan the flames of those rumours.

With his side leading the way in LaLiga and well fancied to secure the title, the Italian coach is more interested in what happens in their away game at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday than what happens in the transfer market at the end of the campaign.

Pressed on the club’s interest in the 2018 World Cup winner, he said: “I see and hear what has happened. I understand that it’s the subject of the day for you, but for us it’s tomorrow’s game.

“Vallecas is always a tough place to play at. It has been in the past and it’ll be a tough game against a team that needs points.

“Do I seem affected or worried (about Mbappe) today? No. It will be the same at the next press conference.

“We have to finish this season well. We’ve discussed the game, we’ve watched a video and we’ve tried to prepare for the game as well as possible.

“It’s a vital game for our season. I’d like to finish this season well and try to win trophies. There’s plenty of time to think about next season.”

While Ancelotti was not keen to discuss the possible arrival of one global star, he was willing to reflect on the reduced role of another: Luka Modric.

The 38-year-old has had to settle for a more peripheral role than he is accustomed to this season and, although he looks certain to leave at the end of his contract, he has continued to make a positive impression behind the scenes.

“A player who is used to playing every game finds it tougher than others to sit on the bench,” admitted the head coach.

“But I understand and respect him. His behaviour is that of a very serious professional who continues to train and fight to be able to play.

“He’s available to play in any game, even tomorrow’s. He continues to contribute in the dressing room just as he did before when he played all the games.

“He’s a highly-respected player and an example of how a professional should be. He continues to be a figurehead for the squad.”

Former assistant Inigo Perez faces a baptism of fire as Vallecano’s new coach, attempting to lift a side who have lost five and drawn one of their last six and sit 14th in the standings.

“Four days are enough to work on an idea and it is not a new project because I already knew them,” he said.

“When it comes to picking up a team in the middle of the season, I’m lucky because I know everything.

“It’s relatively easy. But a team like Madrid demands the maximum from you in all aspects.”

Sevilla have conveyed their “disgust” after winger Lucas Ocampos appeared to be touched in what the club described as an “obscene act” by a home supporter in their victory at Rayo Vallecano.

The Argentina international, who has called for LaLiga to take the incident seriously, appeared to be poked in the backside by a fan as he was preparing to take a throw-in in the 32nd minute of Monday’s contest.

His club released a statement expressing their support for the player and calling for LaLiga to take “appropriate measures” in response to the incident, while Rayo have condemned the act and are in the process of identifying the fan in question.

A statement on Sevilla’s official website read: “On the obscene and completely inappropriate act suffered by Lucas Ocampos at the Estadio de Vallecas:

“We would like to place on record our disgust at the incident that occurred on Monday during our match against Rayo Vallecano, in which our player Lucas Ocampos was subjected to an obscene and completely inappropriate act by a home fan.

“We hope that the appropriate measures outlined in the regulations will be taken to prevent such behaviour from happening again on a football field and we have expressed this to LaLiga directly.

“These gestures and behaviours should not be allowed in our competition if we aspire to be the best league in the world.

“We send our full support to Lucas Ocampos, who showed composure and immense professionalism, despite the unacceptable behaviour of the fan who harassed him.”

Ocampos, 29, who turned around to confront the fan, also demanded action after his side’s 2-1 victory, telling DAZN: “I hope the league takes it seriously, like it takes racism, like it takes those things .

“I don’t think all the Rayo people are like that, because the truth is that they always treat us with respect.

“There is always a fool and I hope it doesn’t happen in other areas, because if it happens in women’s football, we know what can happen.

“I restrained myself because I have two daughters and I hope that tomorrow it doesn’t happen to them. Let’s hope they make the decision they have to make and I hope that a fool like this doesn’t stain the fans, because the truth is they behaved very well.”

Rayo released a statement saying they “condemned” the behaviour of the fan.

The statement added: “This isolated action is solely the individual responsibility of the fan who carried it out, with neither Rayo Vallecano nor any of the other almost 15,000 spectators who filled the Estadio de Vallecas for the match against Sevilla having any responsibility for it and who had exemplary behaviour.

“Rayo Vallecano at this time is working to identify the fan so that, if he is a season ticket holder, it can adopt the appropriate disciplinary measures according to the internal regulations.

“Rayo Vallecano has always promoted the maximum respect towards referees, footballers and coaches. Individual actions like this are opposite to the values ​​that Rayo Vallecano promotes.”

The PA news agency has contacted LaLiga for comment.

Manchester United loanee Mason Greenwood was sent off as nine-man Getafe slipped to a 2-0 home defeat to Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga.

The hosts were reduced to 10 men five minutes before the break as Real Madrid loanee Juanmi Latasa was handed a second booking and matters were made even worse when Sergio Camello put the visitors 1-0 to the good.

Camello doubled their lead two minutes after the interval and Greenwood was given a straight red card three minutes later for dissent after he appeared gesture how many times he had been fouled to referee Jorge Figueroa.

Greenwood became the eighth player to receive a red card for Getafe this season and a further red card was given to Damian Suarez from the bench after he had already been substituted in a heated clash as 11 cards were shown throughout the encounter.

Martin Zubimendi scored a stoppage time equaliser to rescue 10-man Real Sociedad a 1-1 draw with Deportivo Alaves.

Sociedad goalkeeper Alex Remiro was sent off in the 36th minute after he handled the ball outside the area but the scores were level until the 76th minute when Luis Rioja put the away side 1-0 up from the penalty spot.

Alaves looked set for all three points until the sixth minute of stoppage time when Zubimendi latched onto a loose ball inside the area and buried an effort from inside the box.

Pepelu bagged a couple of penalties as Valencia sealed a second successive league victory with a 3-1 triumph over Villarreal.

Roman Yaremchuk scored his first goal in LaLiga to give Valencia the lead four minutes in and Pepelu twice bagged from the penalty spot in either haf, with Gerard Moreno’s second-half strike securing all three points.

In Italy, AC Milan progressed through to the quarter-final of the Coppa Italia with a convincing 4-1 victory over Cagliari at the San Siro.

Luka Jovic put the hosts in front on the half-hour mark when he slammed into the net from close range and he completed his brace just before the break after Theo Hernandez teed it up for a second time to Jovic, who diverted the ball in.

Milan made their lead unassailable in the 50th minute after Chaka Traore’s snapshot handed him a first senior Milan goal and Cagliari pulled one back late on through Paulo Azzi before Rafael Leao regained their three-goal cushion and booked their place in the next round.

Barcelona snatched a late equaliser as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano.

Florian Lejeune’s late own goal rescued a point for Xavi’s side but their slip-up opened the door for Real Madrid and surprise leaders Girona to extend their advantage in the title race.

Vallecano made most of the running in the first period and got their reward with a stunning Unai Lopez volley in the 39th minute.

Barcelona went in search of an equaliser in the second period as chances from Pedri, Ferran Torres and Joao Cancelo all went begging but Lejeune’s 82nd-minute own goal gave the Catalan giants a reprieve.

Vallecano made a bright start and had the first chance of the game but Isi Palazon’s effort from outside the area flew over the crossbar.

Palazon proved to be a menace and tried his luck again a couple of minutes later but his drilled effort was parried by Inaki Pena before the goalkeeper grabbed at the second attempt.

Barcelona failed to make an impression in the opening stages but had their first shot on target in the 28th minute when Lamine Yamal rode the challenge of three defenders into the area before smashing straight into the hands of Stole Dimitrievski.

Vallecano were straight back on the front foot and threatened to break the deadlock but Lopez’s goalbound effort was blocked by Andreas Christensen.

The home side’s deserved lead came in the 38th minute in superb fashion as Oscar Trejo’s initial effort was blocked out to Lopez, who smashed in on the volley from distance past the diving Pena.

Vallecano were inches away from doubling their advantage as Jorge De Frutos fizzed a ball into the six-yard box, which needed to be cleared by Alejandro Balde to keep the deficit to just one at the break.

Barcelona started the second half with much more intent than the first and came close to levelling things up but Cancelo’s curling effort from outside the area lifted just over the bar.

Chances began to come freely for the away side as Oriol Romeu’s cross found Ferran Torres free in space but his effort went straight to Dimitrievski.

Two minutes later another glorious opportunity came and went when Robert Lewandowski’s cross found Pedri in the six-yard area but he nodded over with the goal at his mercy.

With 15 minutes to go, the Barcelona pressure was now relentless and they were denied an equaliser by the woodwork when Raphinha’s shot from range crashed off the post.

But Barcelona had their equaliser in the 82nd minute as Lewandowski sent a ball across the box and Lejeune stuck a foot out but could only turn into his own goal.

Defender Alejandro Balde is confident Barcelona can end their Rayo Vallecano “curse” on Saturday.

The reigning LaLiga champions have not beaten Rayo in four attempts and will hope to put the record straight when they head for the Estadio de Vallecas this weekend.

Balde told the club’s official website: “This is an important match for the team. We haven’t beaten Rayo Vallecano for two years and I think a win on Saturday will break the curse of not winning.

“The start of the season was good. We are in third place in the league and we are already close to qualifying for [the knockout stage of] the Champions League.

“We are four points away from the top, but the season is still long and anything can happen.”

Three of those four winless games against Rayo have come since Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman at the helm in November 2021.

Barca go into the game having lost two of their last four in all competitions, a 2-1 El Clasico defeat by Real Madrid and a shock 1-0 Champions League reverse at Shakhtar Donetsk, but lying third in the table two points behind Real and four adrift of leaders Girona.

However, they do so having lost the services of 19-year-old midfield star Gavi, who is not expected to play again this season after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage on international duty with Spain.

Frenkie De Jong is closing in on a return from an ankle injury which has sidelined him since the end of September, while keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a doubt.

Asked about Gavi, Balde said: “I send him a lot of support. It is a very difficult and long injury, and the most important thing is for him to be patient because he must recover well because the team will need him.

“We are losing a great player, a key player in the team, we are losing his ferocity.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @rayovallecano


Rayo, who have won only one of their last eight league games, but drawn six of them, complete a run of fixtures against the top three which has seen them draw 0-0 at Real Madrid before losing 2-1 at home to Girona despite taking an early lead.

Manager Francisco told a press conference: “We respect our rival a lot. They are one of the best in Europe and the world.

“We have to do what we have been doing, be brave and try to take advantage of the moments we have.”

Girona came from behind to win 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, continuing their unlikely charge at the top of LaLiga.

Alvaro Garcia gave hosts Rayo a fifth-minute advantage that threatened to halt Girona's fine recent momentum.

But left-footed goals from Artem Dovbyk and Savio either side of half-time gave Michel's men a fifth straight victory.

After finishing 10th last season, Girona have now won 12, drawn one and lost just one of their first 14 matches in a fantastic start to the 2023-24 campaign, their only defeat coming against Real Madrid in September.

They have moved five points clear of second-placed Madrid – who have a game in hand against Valencia later on Saturday – and sit 10 points clear of fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao in the race for Champions League qualification.

There could easily have been more goals in the contest at Estadio de Vallecas, as free-flowing Girona racked up a stunning expected goals total of 4.64, while Rayo generated 1.69 as the two teams combined for 41 shots during an end-to-end battle.

Girona's latest comeback means they have now won 16 points from losing positions in LaLiga this season, more than any other team. Their next game is at home to Athletic after the international break.

Fast fact: Girona posting elite numbers

With 11 league wins in LaLiga, Girona are the team with the most victories this season across Europe's big five leagues.

They have scored 31 goals in top-flight play, which is second only to Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich, who had 38 going into their own match with Heidenheim this weekend.

Real Madrid failed to return to the top of LaLiga after being held to a goalless draw by city rivals Rayo Vallecano.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side need to take all three points to edge ahead of Girona on goal difference, but could not break down their stubborn opponents despite dominating possession at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Vinicius Jr did have the ball in the net midway through the second half, only for his effort to be ruled out due to Joselu being offside in the build-up.

Rayo Vallecano have now gone eight games without defeat in LaLiga, although six of those have been draws, and they never threatened to claim a first win at the Bernabeu since 1996.

The home side should have taken the lead with just five minutes gone when Federico Valverde pounced on a loose pass to surge into the area, only for the Uruguay international to hit his shot straight at goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

Bellingham, who was presented with his LaLiga player of the month award for October before kick-off, had a shot blocked from the resulting corner but soon had the Real fans holding their breath as he landed awkwardly on his left shoulder after attempting to chest the ball to a team-mate.

The 20-year-old looked in severe pain as he received treatment for more than two minutes, but was thankfully able to continue.

An uncharacteristic mistake from Luke Modric gifted the visitors a rare sight of goal on 15 minutes, only for Alvaro Garcia to drag his left-footed effort badly wide and the action soon switched back to the other end as Joselu sent a glancing header wide from a Modric corner.

Joselu and Fran Garcia both had shots off target before the former brought a superb save out of Dimitrievski with a first-time effort after being set up by Vinicius, while Bellingham produced a deft turn on the edge of area to beat two defenders before firing over the bar.

Vinicius should have opened the scoring almost immediately after the restart but failed to connect with a delightful cross from Modric, who curled the ball to the back post with the outside of his right foot.

And when Vinicius finally did find the target on 66 minutes the goal was disallowed due to Joselu being in an offside position when he flicked the ball on to his team-mate.

The home side continued to press forward but Dimitrievski was forced into action on few occasions and easily gathered a tame effort from substitute Rodrygo in the third of seven minutes of added time.

Vinicius Junior watched on from the stands as his fellow Brazilian Rodrygo sealed a 2-1 victory for Real Madrid against Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga.

Madrid winger Vinicius was racially abused by Valencia supporters during Los Blancos' defeat at Mestalla Stadium on Sunday, with the winger then sent off.

With that red card rescinded, injury kept Vinicius from featuring against Rayo on Wednesday, though Karim Benzema's finish had seemingly set Madrid on their way to a comfortable victory.

Raul de Tomas' excellent strike pegged Madrid back, but Rodrygo lashed home in the 89th minute to lift Los Blancos, temporarily at least, into second place.

Rayo were the more threatening in the opening exchanges – Alvaro Garcia heading over between Unai Lopez and Santi Comesana forcing Thibaut Courtois into action.

Yet Madrid went ahead just after the half-hour mark as Rayo were caught napping at a drop-ball, which was taken quickly by Toni Kroos. Federico Valverde and Benzema combined brilliantly to put the latter through and, after coolly rounding Stole Dimitrievski, he tucked home.

Moments after an untimely slip from Rodrygo saw a golden chance go begging for Madrid, Dimitrievski brilliantly denied Benzema a second, instinctively sticking out a hand to keep a close-range shot out.

Dani Carvajal volleyed wide from Luka Modric's chip as Madrid looked to put the game to bed, a wise decision given their record of two defeats from their previous four meetings with Rayo.

Madrid's failure to add to their lead looked to have proved costly with six minutes remaining, substitute De Tomas thumping in a brilliant equaliser.

But Rodrygo had the last laugh with his powerful last-gasp strike, with the 22-year-old raising his right fist in a celebration synonymous with the "black power" salute.

Xavi said there could be "no excuses" for Barcelona's meek 2-1 defeat to Rayo Vallecano, which saw the Blaugrana miss the chance to go 14 points clear at the top of LaLiga. 

Barca look destined to end their four-year wait for a league title in the coming weeks, and Real Madrid's 4-2 defeat at Girona on Tuesday gave them the opportunity to pull further clear. 

However, goals from Alvaro Garcia and Fran Garcia handed Rayo a deserved victory, with Robert Lewandowski's late volley proving to be a mere consolation.

Barca have only lost three league games all season, but the Blaugrana have now taken just five points from the last 12 available to them in LaLiga, leaving Xavi to rue a missed opportunity.

"We didn't have a good game, we weren't comfortable. They were very intense and aggressive and they didn't let us play," Xavi said.

"We lacked understanding of the game, we abused long passes. There are no excuses, Rayo deserved to win. 

"We tried with courage until the end, but they deserved the victory. We have a margin and there is one less game left.

"We have to think about Saturday. The message to the players is that the league has not been won. It costs a lot to win this league and every game away from home is a war. 

"This defeat weighs us down and annoys us. Today we failed and we are leaving annoyed because it was a very good opportunity."

Having lost on their last league trip to Rayo in October 2021, Barca have now suffered back-to-back defeats in Vallecas for just the second time in their history, also doing so in December 2002.

Defender Ronald Araujo believed the hosts warranted their win, saying: "Rayo deserved the victory. They played well.

"In the first half we weren't up to it, but we still have a good points advantage. Now we have two home games that we have to win."

Barca welcome Real Betis to Camp Nou in their next game on Saturday, holding an 11-point lead over Madrid at the top of LaLiga and requiring a maximum of 11 more points to clinch the title.

Barcelona missed the chance to go 14 points clear at the top of LaLiga as goals from Alvaro Garcia and Fran Garcia fired Rayo Vallecano to a 2-1 win over the below-par leaders.

Real Madrid's 4-2 defeat at Girona on Tuesday gave Barca the chance to pull further clear at the summit, but Xavi's men started slowly and soon found themselves behind to Alvaro Garcia's low drive.

Barca's woes were deepened when Fran Garcia broke clear to finish after the break, and although Robert Lewandowski halved the deficit late on, the visitors were unable to find a leveller.

Boasting an 11-point lead over Madrid, Barca still appear destined to win their first league title since 2019, but the Catalan giants have dropped points in three of their last four games after another flat performance.

The first big chance fell to Rayo 17 minutes in, Sergio Camello bursting through after Pedri was caught in possession, only to be denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen when one on one.

Ter Stegen was unable to save Barca two minutes later, Alvaro Garcia drilling into the bottom-right corner after being found by Camello on the left-hand side of the area.

Stole Dimitrievski preserved Rayo's lead by smothering Lewandowski's dinked attempt, and the hosts escaped again on the stroke of half-time, as a VAR review confirmed an on-field decision to disallow the striker's left-footed finish for offside.

Barca found themselves 2-0 down seven minutes after the restart as Fran Garcia – who is set to re-join former club Real Madrid at the end of the season – raced clear to side-foot calmly under Ter Stegen.

Lewandowski ensured a nervy finish when he volleyed into the top-right corner after Ansu Fati's shot deflected into his path, but Rayo held on to claim a surprise victory.

Real Madrid have agreed a deal with Rayo Vallecano that will see left-back Fran Garcia return to the Santiago Bernabeu later this year.

The 23-year-old initially left the current LaLiga champions on loan during the 2020-21 season, before signing permanently for Rayo ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, with interest from Bayer Leverkusen and Premier League teams in January, Carlo Ancelotti's side exercised their first refusal option, meaning the defender will return to Madrid after the conclusion of this season in a deal worth €5million.

Speaking to Cadena COPE radio, Rayo president Raul Martin Presa lauded Madrid’s decision to let Garcia see out the season with his side, despite a recent injury to Madrid's first-choice left-back Ferland Mendy.

"Madrid have behaved like gentlemen," he said. "They could have [taken him] now, especially with the situation they have with Mendy, but we spoke to them and out of respect to Rayo, to not hurt Rayo, they've behaved like gentlemen.

"They've avoided that he goes to Leverkusen, in their own interests obviously, because they think he's a player who can help them."

Madrid academy product Garcia has impressed greatly since joining Rayo, starting 34 LaLiga games last season and all 19 games so far this season.

Page 1 of 4
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.