La Liga round-up: Lionel Messi penalty guides Barcelona past Real Valladolid
Last Updated: 17/02/19 1:07pm
Barcelona marked the signing of a new contract for coach Ernesto Valverde with a 1-0 win over relegation-battlers Real Valladolid to strengthen their grip at the top of La Liga on Saturday night.
Valverde, whose deal sees him committed to the Nou Camp club for at least another season, had made five changes from the team which was held to a goalless draw by Athletic Bilbao, as Kevin-Prince Boateng came in for a debut.
Despite having one eye on next week's Champions League last-16 clash against Lyon, Barcelona eventually broke down a stubborn Valladolid side, Lionel Messi converting a penalty just before half-time.
However, Valladolid's former Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip produced a string of fine saves to prevent Barcelona further extending their lead - including denying Messi from the spot late on and then catching the follow-up header.
Barcelona moved back seven points clear of Atletico Madrid, with rivals Real in action again on Sunday.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day Alvaro Morata set up Antoine Griezmann to score the winner as Atletico won 1-0 against Rayo Vallecano, ending a run of two consecutive defeats for Diego Simeone's side.
Atletico struggled in the derby clash against 18th-placed Rayo but eventually snatched a late victory to move second in the table, four points behind leaders Barcelona, who host Real Valladolid later on Saturday.
Rayo had the better of the first half with Adrian Embarba going close, while Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak denied Raul de Tomas early in the second half.
Atletico broke the deadlock in the 74th minute when Morata, a January loan signing from Chelsea, teed up Griezmann and his close-range volley deflected past goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.
"We know that here in Vallecas they press you a lot, they are a good team, the size of the pitch is difficult," said Atletico forward Diego Costa, who made his return from injury as a substitute.
"It was important to win the game after two defeats, we won here against a good team that will surely stay up."
Celta Vigo's poor run of form continued as they lost 4-1 at home to Levante.
Jose Luis Morales scored twice for Levante while Ryad Boudebouz was sent off in the 49th minute for Celta, who have lost seven of their last eight matches.