Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba star again for Barcelona in Lionel Messi's absence
Barcelona scored twice in the final three minutes as they came from behind to beat Rayo Vallecano 3-2 on Saturday and move four points clear at the top of La Liga.
Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the first half, but goals on either side of the break from Jose Pozo and Alvaro Garcia gave Rayo a surprise lead.
Substitute Ousmane Dembele got Barca back into the game in the 87th minute, and Suarez sealed the win with his second goal of the game two minutes later.
Winning while not playing well, they say, is the sign of a champion. With everyone else in the league dropping points, Barca have put a four-game winless run behind them to win three-in-a-row and open up a gap at the top. The win over Rayo was very different to last weekend's hammering of Real Madrid, but in a funny way coach Ernesto Valverde will be just as happy with the circumstances of the win, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
After the highs of the wins over Sevilla, Inter and Madrid, Barca crashed back down to earth at Vallecas. There were too many sloppy performances, with Philippe Coutinho's display particularly disappointing. Sergi Roberto, good going forward again, showed defensive weaknesses, too.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Valverde stuck with the players who beat Inter and Madrid, but maybe he should have freshened it up a little bit. There was a complacency about Barca once they took the lead. The coach did react in the second half, mind, quickly introducing Dembele, Arturo Vidal and Munir El Haddadi to good effect.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 -- Once again, made some good saves and one in the second half from Adri Embarba proved especially important. Not at fault for the goals.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Struggled in defence, regularly leaving his opponent with too much space to work in. Was lucky Pozo missed one chance in the first half and could have done more on Rayo's two goals. Didn't close Pozo down for the leveller and wasn't close to Garcia when the ball bounced back of the post.
DF Gerard Pique, 7 -- Caught out a couple of times at the back but vital in Barca's late turnaround. Won the knockdown which led to Dembele's goal, and his run created space for Suarez to score the winner.
DF Clement Lenglet, 6 -- Did well on the ball and helped Barca push forward late on, but there were big gaps in defence -- partly due to an exposed attack and midfield -- in phases of the second period.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 -- Along with Suarez, is Barcelona's best player at the moment. The left-back was his side's main attacking outlet, setting up the opener and delivering the cross which led to Dembele's equaliser.
MF Sergio Busquets, 5 -- Unusually wasteful with the ball as he misplaced too many passes. The erratic nature of the game, up and down, didn't suit his style.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Produced a brilliant ball over the top to Alba in the build-up to Suarez's opener. Barca's best midfielder on the night, but still short of his best.
MF Arthur, 6 -- Sacrificed in the second half as Barcelona chased the game. Not as good as he has been in recent weeks -- but neither were Barca.
MF Rafinha, 4 -- Kept his place in the side despite a disappointing Clasico display but didn't redeem himself. Was taken off early in the second half, moments after missing a really good chance.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 5 -- It's not unfair to expect more from a man who cost €140 million. The former Liverpool man is still not consistent enough and was replaced by Munir with Barca trailing in the second half.
FW Luis Suarez, 8 -- Scored two important goals to maintain his hot streak. Now has six goals in his last three league games and has really stepped up in Lionel Messi's absence.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 6 -- Gave the ball away and looked short of confidence. Pinned to the right wing, but then popped up to score a brilliant equaliser.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 -- Added some much-needed snap to the Barca midfield.
FW Munir El Haddadi, 6 -- Pressed well and held the ball up late on to help see out the win.