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MADRID: Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Thursday to ensure Real Madrid will have to wait at least one more week to celebrate the Spanish league title.
Barcelona’s away win reduced their gap with Madrid to 15 points, and they can reduce it further to 12 points on Sunday if they beat Rayo Vallecano at home in a game they have in hand.
Barcelona and Madrid, who won 3-1 at Osasuna on Wednesday, will have five games left to play. Madrid, who are chasing their second title in three seasons, are not playing this weekend.
“Madrid were lucky that it took us a while to join the fight,” said Barcelona defender Dani Alves.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored with a close-range header in the 11th minute to give Barcelona their first win after back-to-back home defeats to Cadiz in the league and Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. The Catalan club hadn’t lost two consecutive home games since 2003.
The win over Sociedad left Barcelona level on points with Sevilla, who beat Levante earlier on Thursday to stay in position to secure a Champions League spot next season. Second place is also important as it guarantees a spot in the Spanish Super Cup.
“We suffered a lot but in the end we got three golden points and stayed in second place,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said. “It was an important win even though we didn’t play very well.”
Defending champions Atletico Madrid, who drew 0-0 at home to relegation-threatened Granada on Wednesday, remained two points behind Barcelona and Sevilla. Fifth-placed Real Betis trailed Atletico by four points and edged Sociedad by two.
Sociedad haven’t beaten Barcelona in 12 consecutive league games. The Basque Country club had not lost in seven consecutive league games at home, all with clean sheets.
Barcelona extended their unbeaten streak on the road to 13 league matches, having won five in a row.
Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo was injured early in the second half, and the team’s other centre-back, Gerard Pique, appeared to be injured in the first half but stayed on until he is replaced in the 82nd while being loudly mocked by the fans of Sociedad.
Pique, who also heard boos every time he touched the ball during the game, has been in the limelight in recent days after stolen audio leaked to the media revealed a series of conversations between him and Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales speaking from behind-the-scenes negotiations on several issues.
Sevilla improved their chances of qualifying for the Champions League with a 3-2 win at second-bottom place Levante.
Jesús “Tecatito” Corona scored two goals in the first half and Jules Kounde added another after halftime.
Levante captain José Luis Morales had to be comforted by his teammates and opponents after the game because of a missed penalty that could have leveled the game at 2-2 in the second half. Koundé gave Sevilla a 3-1 lead around 10 minutes later before Roberto Soldado pulled the hosts closer again.
Levante remained level with last-placed Alavés, six points from safety.
Cadiz followed up their stunning 1-0 win over Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium with a 3-2 home loss to Athletic Bilbao.
The result left Cadiz just outside the relegation zone.
Eighth-placed Athletic led 3-0 in the 33rd. He played a 71st man after Mikel Vesga was sent off.
Rayo won 1-0 at Espanyol to end a 13-game league winless streak and move closer to salvation.
Sergi Guardiola scored in the 42nd to leave the southern Madrid club seven points clear of the relegation zone in 14th place. Espanyol, 12th, were two points ahead of Rayo.