Barcelona needed an own goal by Rayo Vallecano defender Florian Lejeune in the final minutes to salvage a 1-1 draw in Madrid on Saturday.
Rayo midfielder Unai López put the hosts ahead with a shot from well outside the area in the 39th minute at Vallecas Stadium.
Barcelona was held in check until late in the second half. Minutes after substitute Raphinha hit the post, Lejeune inadvertently turned a cross by Alejando Balde intended for Robert Lewandowski into his own net in the 82nd.
The draw left Barcelona in third place in the Spanish league. Leader Girona is three points ahead of Barcelona before playing Athletic Bilbao on Monday. Second-placed Real Madrid is one point ahead of Barcelona before visiting Cadiz on Sunday.
Rayo, despite its modest budget, has now gone undefeated against Barcelona in their last five meetings, winning three and drawing two. Barcelona’s last win over Rayo came in Jan. 2021 in the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona played its first match this season without midfielder Gavi Páez, who tore his ACL while playing for Spain last week.
“We didn’t play well, today we didn’t reach our potential,” said Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who started in his first game since recovering from a muscle injury that had sidelined him since September.
“We have had lots of injuries. I myself just came back from an injury and I did not feel sharp. The only answer is to keep on working.”
Goalkeeper Iñaki Peña played his first minutes of the season, starting in place of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who hurt his back with Germany. But his dive could not reach López’s superb volley from long range.
“In the first half we were superior and then we faded a bit because they are a great team,” said López, whose Rayo moved into eight place.
First appeared on www.hindustantimes.com