MADRID (AP) — Barcelona lost 1-0 to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday for an unprecedented third straight home defeat, leaving Real Madrid a point away from clinching the Spanish league title.
It was the first time Barcelona had lost three in a row at home in all competitions in the same season, prompting some boos from the crowd at the Camp Nou stadium after the final whistle.
League leader Madrid will have its first chance of lifting the league trophy for the second time in three years next Saturday when it hosts Espanyol. Madrid is 15 points ahead of second-place Barcelona with five rounds to go. The Catalan club has the better head-to-head tiebreaker.
Barcelona had won seven straight home matches in the league against Rayo, which scored the winner with a shot by Álvaro García after a long pass into the area in the seventh minute.
The loss left Barcelona tied on points with third-place Sevilla and only two points ahead of Atlético Madrid in the final Champions League spot. Securing second place is also important as it guarantees a spot in the lucrative Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.
Barcelona was coming off defeats against Cádiz in the league and Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. It hadn’t lost two in a row at home since 2003, and had lost three straight only once, between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.
It was the second straight win for Rayo after enduring a 13-game winless streak in the league. The Madrid club moved from 15th to 11th with the victory, its second this season against Barcelona. Rayo's win on Thursday also came in the city of Barcelona, at Espanyol.
Only Bayern Munich had beaten Barcelona twice this season, in the group stage of the Champions League.
The match was postponed from January. No other league games were played this weekend. Real Betis defeated Valencia on penalties on Saturday to win the Copa del Rey.
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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press