Sport

Luuk de Jong lifts ravaged Barcelona after Real Madrid lose unbeaten run

Luuk de Jong’s first-half header and a stunning stoppage-time save by Marc-André ter Stegen gave Barcelona a 1-0 win at Mallorca in a match where Xavi’s side were missing 14 players due to Covid-19, injuries and suspensions.

It was vindication time for striker De Jong after several media reports that Barça want to move him on this month. He got his second goal since arriving from Sevilla in the close season – his first for more than three months. The Dutchman was Barca’s best player on Sunday as he also hit the post twice in the first half, once with a bicycle kick. The goal came just before the break when he headed home from close range after a cross by Óscar Mingueza.

Barça dominated the game until the final minutes when Mallorca started pressing for an equaliser and almost got it. Ter Stegen saved Barca in added time with an unbelievable handball-style reflex save with his right arm, denying Jaume Costa whose close-range strike looked like a sure goal.

“It was an historic win for us, I’m not exaggerating,” Xavi said. “Missing so many players, to go back home with a win – it’s three points worth their weight in gold. The young players showed up and Ter Stegen made a stop for the ages. I’m thrilled that we managed to win.”

Earlier on Sunday Getafe had ended Real Madrid’s 15-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory in the capital derby. Enes Unal got the hosts’ winner in the ninth minute after he stole the ball from Éder Militão and beat Thibaut Courtois. Luka Modric hit the crossbar while Eden Hazard and Marcelo came on as half-time substitutions but Getafe dug in to earn their first victory over their star-studded crosstown rivals since August 2012.

“We can’t get carried away by this loss,” Ancelotti said, after his side looked slack on the return from La Liga’s winter break. “We are still leaders and are excited about what is to come. A player who normally stands out for his defensive play gifted them their goal. There is not much more to say, except that it looked like we thought we were still on vacation.”

Ángel Correa scored twice as Atlético Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano 2-0 to end their worst losing run since Diego Simeone took over the club a decade ago. The defending champions had not lost more than two league games in a row under Simeone but finished 2021 with consecutive defeats to Mallorca, Madrid, Sevilla and Granada. Atlético leapfrogged Rayo to reclaim fourth place, the last spot that will earn a Champions League berth.