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Lewandowski hat trick fires Barca to La Liga win against Valencia

Robert Lewandowski’s second-half hat trick propelled Barcelona to a thrilling 4-2 victory over 10-man Valencia in La Liga on Monday.

The champions’ win not only showcased their resilience but also dealt a blow to leaders Real Madrid’s hopes of clinching the crown by merely defeating Cadiz next Saturday. Despite being 11 points behind Real Madrid with five matches remaining, Barcelona’s victory keeps their title aspirations alive.

Fermin Lopez opened the scoring for the hosts, but Valencia’s Hugo Duro swiftly equalized before Pepelu converted a penalty to put Valencia ahead.

Valencia’s hopes were dashed when goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili was sent off for a handball late in the first half. Lewandowski capitalized on the advantage, scoring to level the game before adding two more goals late in the match.

Despite the exciting match, the threat of rain in drought-stricken Barcelona kept the Olympic Stadium’s attendance low, with only 30,000 spectators in the stands. The subdued crowd could also be attributed to Barcelona’s recent Clasico defeat, which paved the way for Real Madrid to potentially snatch the title, as well as the unpopular Monday night scheduling of the game.

La Liga rescheduled the game at only a week’s notice, meaning many could no longer attend.

Those who were present enjoyed a surprisingly entertaining clash, with Barca coach Xavi Hernandez triumphant in his first match after deciding to stay in charge next season.

“I think the team did well … we lacked calmness, tranquility, but I’m satisfied with the team’s attitude,” Xavi told DAZN.

Visitors Valencia, eighth and striving for European football next season, carved out the best early chances.

Hugo Duro’s flick from close range was saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. On-loan Real Madrid winger Peter Federico dragged a shot wide when barreling through on goal.

Barcelona took the lead when Lopez headed home from Raphinha’s whipped cross.

Valencia were quickly level after a grievous error by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who ran out of his box to try and intercept a long ball.

He got there first but botched his attempted dink over Duro’s head and the striker controlled the ball and held off Ronald Araujo to roll home.

Key errors

It soon got worse for Barcelona, with Araujo – crucially sent off in the Champions League quarter-final defeat by Paris Saint-Germain – foolishly giving away a penalty by felling Federico. Valencia midfielder Pepelu fired the penalty down the middle to put Los Che ahead.

The game turned Barcelona’s way shortly before the break when Valencia’s goalkeeper erred.

Mamardashvili miscontrolled the ball on the edge of his box, giving it away to teenager Lamine Yamal.

As the youngster tried to round the goalkeeper, the Georgian touched the ball with his arm outside the area and, after a VAR review, was dismissed.

Replacement Jaume Domenech saved Raphinha’s free-kick, but could not keep out Barcelona’s equaliser, early in the second half.

Lewandowski headed home from a corner to start Barcelona’s comeback.

The game lurched from end to end, with Domenech saving brilliantly from Araujo’s header and Barca substitute Pedri making a last-ditch challenge to stop Diego Lopez from striking.

Eventually, Lewandowski nodded Barcelona back in front from close range when Araujo’s header from a corner dropped into his path.

The Polish international wrapped up his treble in stoppage time with a well-placed free-kick, his 16th league goal of the season.

“The first half, we didn’t have much space in attack, but most important is if you lose one or two goals, we can always score three or four,” Lewandowski told DAZN.

“If we score a lot of goals, it’s a lot easier for everyone.”

Barcelona’s victory took them two points ahead of neighbors Girona, third, whom they visit next Saturday.

The minnows are chasing Champions League qualification which they could secure with a victory, which could also hand Madrid the title.

“It’ll be a great game, two teams looking to go on the attack,” said Xavi, whose side lost 4-2 at home against Girona in December.

“It will be a great spectacle, as we saw in Montjuic.”

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