Thanks to a late goal from Sergi Roberto, Barcelona defeated Almeria 3-2 at home on Wednesday, lifting them up to third place in La Liga.
Raphinha’s goal in the first half and Sergi Roberto’s double helped Xavi Hernandez’s team win at the end of 2023.
Leo Baptistao and Edgar Gonzalez’s strikes twice allowed the 20th-placed visitors to pull within one goal of the Catalan giants, but in the end, the home club prevailed.
Both teams had a number of excellent opportunities in the first forty-five minutes as Barcelona methodically attempted to break down the visitors.
When captain Sergi Roberto found himself alone in the middle of the box, it almost looked like an early set-piece would win the game for the Catalans, but ‘keeper Luis Maximiano did a fantastic job blocking his headed attempt.
In the thirteenth minute, Largie Ramazani’s attempt was narrowly missed by Ronald Araujo, and Joao Cancelo had to step in to save it, giving the hosts a warning shot at the other end.
On minute 33, Raphinha opened the score when Araujo’s header from a corner was permitted by the Almeria defense. Maximiano made another excellent save, but he was powerless to stop Raphinha’s fierce rebound.
Xavi’s team, now leading, eased off the gas, but not before Robert Lewandowski was offered a chance in the box by a defender and Maximiano pulled off another outstanding save to deny him.
Their downfall was ultimately caused by this decrease in effort, as Leo Baptistao stunned them with an equalizer eight minutes later.
The assistant’s flag was raised shortly after Sergio Arribas’ dinked finish over Inaki Pena, which was made possible by Araujo’s defensive blunder.
VAR replays revealed that although he had been offside at one point during the move, he had returned to being onside when Arribas passed him the ball.
At halftime, Xavi made the substitutions, sending on Ferran Torres and Jules Kounde in place of Andreas Christensen and Joao Felix.
Three minutes after halftime, Torres made an immediate impact by working the Portuguese goalkeeper with a forceful strike.
The home team continued to appear slow in spite of this quick boost in intensity.
On the hour mark, Sergi Roberto met a corner at the near post and lofted a header over the diving goalkeeper and into the far corner to give Barca the lead again, thanks to some poor set-piece defending.
The 20th-place team looked to have been completely overwhelmed by the second goal, but Pena’s gift put them back in the game when he deposited a lofted free-kick at Edgar’s feet, where the defender cheerfully slid the ball into the open net.
With little over ten minutes remaining, Barca had a fantastic opportunity to win the match, but Ilkay Gundogan and Lewandowski failed to make enough touch with their headers as the goal gaped in front of them.
However, it was Sergi Roberto—making just his fifth appearance of the year—who scored the game-winning goal for the Spanish champions in the 83rd minute, pouncing on Lewandowski’s lofted cross and beating Maximiano.
Five minutes later, in a very unpredictable match, Pena made up for his previous mistake by producing a fantastic reaction save against a header from Iddrisu Baba as his team tripped over the line.
Later, Rafael Benitez’s Celta Vigo lost 3-2 against Villarreal to drop to near the bottom of the standings, and Athletic Bilbao moved level on points with fourth-place Atletico Madrid after defeating Las Palmas 1-0.