VALENCIA: Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby (R) heads during the La Liga match against Real Betis at the Mestalla Stadium.—AFP
VALENCIA: Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby (R) heads during the La Liga match against Real Betis at the Mestalla Stadium.—AFP

BARCELONA: A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace earned Barcelona a 3-1 home win against Celta Vigo on Tuesday, putting Xavi Hernandez’s side on course to secure a spot in the lucrative Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia with a second-place finish in La Liga.

But Barca’s victory was overshadowed by a nasty head injury to defender Ronald Araujo, who had to be taken away in an ambulance in the 64th minute of the match.

With two games left and Real Madrid already crowned champions, Barcelona are second on 72 points. They are seven points clear of third-placed Sevilla. Barca move seven points ahead of Sevilla and eight in front of Atletico Madrid, with Sevilla and Atletico playing each other at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

Memphis Depay opened the scoring in the 30th minute with a first-touch strike following a brilliant individual effort by Ousmane Dembele on the right wing.

Aubameyang extended Barca’s lead 10 minutes later with a close-range strike from a rebound and scored again four minutes after the break, following more fine play by Dembele.

Iago Aspas scored Celta’s consolation goal one minute later, after Marc-Andre ter Stegen mishandled a pass inside his own box and gifted the ball to Aspas, who had an empty net at his disposal.

Celta ended up playing more than half an hour with 10 men after substitute Jeison Murillo received a straight red card for a desperate last-man foul on Depay on the edge of the area.

A few minutes later, Barca had a real scare as the game was interrupted so defender Araujo could receive medical attention after suffering a head injury in a collision with team-mate Gavi.

He appeared unconscious as he laid on the ground and an ambulance entered the pitch to remove the player who was immobilised on a stretcher.

“Araujo has suffered a concussion and has been taken to the hospital to undergo further testing,” Barcelona said in a short statement.

Xavi said later that doctors had given the player the all-clear.

“We were really worried that something awful could have happened, but I understand he was conscious and OK and he’s been taken to hospital as a precaution,” he told reporters.

“So he is conscious and aware, so there are no problems. Hopefully he’ll be back at home tomorrow as long as everything goes well.”

Earlier on Tuesday, fifth-placed Real Betis thrashed Valencia 3-0 away to keep alive their hopes of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League next season.

In a rematch of last month’s Copa del Rey final that Betis won on a penalty shootout, Manuel Pellegrini’s side once again came out on top.

This time they earned victory thanks to second-half goals from Willian Jose, Sergio Canales and Borja Iglesias.

Betis climbed to 61 points, three behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand and will face Elche on Wednesday.

Valencia’s struggles continued as they sit 10th in standings on 44 points with no chance of qualifying for European competition next season.

Granada, who scored six goals in their last fixture, again came out on top against Athletic Bilbao after Alex Collado scored the only goal of the match in the 37th minute.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2022

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