Celta Vigo took a giant stride towards LaLiga safety as they claimed an impressive 2-0 win over a much-changed Barcelona at Balaidos on Saturday.
With one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool, Ernesto Valverde opted to rest his big-name stars following their confirmation as LaLiga champions last weekend, including Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Fran Escriba’s side took full advantage of Barca’s inexperienced starting XI, Maxi Gomez setting them on their way with a cool finish after 67 minutes and Iago Aspas adding a penalty two minutes from time.
The result lifts Celta up to 14th – five points clear of the relegation zone – and condemns 19th-place Rayo Vallecano to an immediate return to the Segunda Division.
Barcelona’s new-look line-up suffered an early blow when Ousmane Dembele limped off with a hamstring injury after just six minutes, to be replaced by Alex Collado.
Celta did much of the pressing in the opening half but the closest they came was through Okay Yokuslu’s curled effort from 25 yards, which was comfortably held by Jasper Cillessen.
The hosts thought they had forged ahead five minutes after the interval when Nestor Araujo slotted home from close range after Cillessen had fumbled Gustavo Cabral’s header. Following a lengthy VAR review, however, the goal was chalked off after Araujo had strayed narrowly offside.
Moments after wastefully heading straight at Cillessen, Gomez superbly guided Ryad Boudebouz’s right-wing cross past the Dutch goalkeeper from 10 yards.
Arturo Vidal was brought on by Valverde to add some bite to his lifeless team but it was Celta who had the final say, Aspas drilling home from the spot after a VAR review had deemed Moussa Wague to have handled inside the area.