Barcelona crashed to a third consecutive home defeat for the first time since the 1998/99 season as Rayo Vallecano performed a smash and grab, all but ending the Catalans' very slim La Liga title hopes in the process.
Alvaro Garcia's seventh minute goal proved the difference between the sides, as Xavi's men suffered yet more disappointment in front of their home fans after defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt and Cadiz respectively.
The Rayo forward's shot beat Marc Andre Ter Stegen at his near post and the out-of-sorts Barcelona failed to recover.
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The Catalans couldn't get into any kind of rhythm in attack in the first half, Gavi going closest with a snapshot that crashed off the woodwork on the stroke of half-time.
Xavi rang the changes, operating with four strikers on the pitch in a desperate bid to drawl level. Substitute Memphis Depay stung the gloves of Stole Dimitrievski as Barcelona threw the kitchen sink at the visitors as an incredible 14 minutes were added on.
Shots from Adama Traore and Jordi Alba were repelled by Dimitrievski, and in the absolute dying stages, Ousmane Dembele had an effort cleared off the line by Pathe Ciss, as Rayo Vallecano held on for an unforgettable victory at the home of the Spanish giants.
Defeat leaves Barcelona in second, 15 points behind Real Madrid with just five games remaining and just six points ahead of fifth-placed Real Betis. Victory all but secures Rayo Vallecano's top-flight status as they climb to 11th, 10 points above the drop zone.

TALKING POINT - Toothless Barcelona make unwanted history

After a recent 17-game unbeaten run, Barcelona have now lost three of their last four. What's more surprising is that they have lost three consecutive home games for only the second time in the club's history.
Mistakes in defence have been creeping in of late and Serginho Dest was to blame for the only goal of the game as he switched off, allowing Garcia the space to get his shot away. There was plenty of time for Barcelona to recover, of course, but they struggled to click, a distinct lack of firepower in attack evident as they failed to create a clear cut chance until the dying stages. What was perhaps most concerning for Xavi was the number of times his side conceded possession in midfield, with Frenkie De Jong, in particular, guilty of sloppy passing.
There is no doubt that Barcelona have made a remarkable improvement under Xavi but there is clearly much work to be done if the Catalans are to close the gap on Real Madrid next season.
AS IT HAPPENED

MAN OF THE MATCH - Stole Dimitrievski (Rayo Vallecano)

Protected by a disciplined and fired-up defence, the Macedonia international pulled off a number of great saves in stoppage-time to keep the might of Barcelona at bay.

PLAYER RATINGS

Barcelona: ter Stegen 6, Dest 4, Araujo 6, Garcia 6, Alba 6, F de Jong 5, Busquets 6, Gavi 6, Dembele 6, Aubameyang 5, Torres 5.. subs: Lenglet 5, Gonzales 5, Depay 6, L De Jong 5, Traore 5.
Rayo Vallecano: Dimitrievski 9*, Balliu 8, Maras 7, Catena 8, Garcia 7, Valentin 7, Comesana 7, Palazon 8, Lopez 7, Garcia 8, Nteka 6.. subs: Guardiola 6, Ciss 7, Trejo 6, Suarez 5, Hernandez 5.

KEY MOMENTS

7' - GOAL! BARCELONA 0-1 RAYO VALLECANO (ALVARO GARCIA): Oh wow, Rayo are ahead! For the third consecutive home game, Barca concede first! Palazon is the creator, picking out Garcia with a beautiful reverse pass over the top, he controls superbly and beats ter Stegen at his near post!
42' - OFF THE CROSSBAR! Rayo fail to clear from a corner. The loose ball drops to Gavi, who creates the space for a shot. It looks destined for the top corner and everyone in the stadium can only watch on as it crashes off the crossbar. Torres is flagged offside as he latches onto the rebound.
90'+ 2- SAVE! Traore dances his way into the penalty area after skipping past a couple of defenders but his finish lacks conviction and Dimitrievski makes the stop.
90'+ 12 - OFF THE LINE! Dembele fires a shot at a gaping goal, it's heading in only for Ciss to make a desperate clearance on the line!

KEY STATS

  • Barcelona have lost three consecutive home games in all competitions for the second time in their history, the first one since the three defeats suffered under Louis van Gaal 🇳🇱 between the 1997/98 and 1998/99 seasons.
  • Alvaro Garcia equalled Joao Felix as the player to have scored the most goals in the first 10 minutes of play in La Liga this season (four for each one).
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