Barca below par again as Rayo hold them in Vallecas

Madrid, Nov 26 (IANS): FC Barcelona dropped another two points after an unconvincing display saw them held to a 1-1 draw away to Rayo Vallecano.

Although Pedri and Frenkie de Jong were both back in the Barcelona starting lineup, Xavi Hernandez's team produced a disappointing first-half performance in the south of Madrid, falling behind in the 41st minute, reports Xinhua.

Rayo midfielder Unai Lopez struck from 30 meters out, beating Barcelona keeper Inaki Pena with a powerful shot.

Pena, in his first appearance of the season due to Marc Andre ter Stegen's back problem, was helpless as Lopez's shot found the corner of the net.

Barcelona, poor in the first half of their narrow win at home against Alaves two weeks ago, again lacked intensity in the first 45 minutes.

With Gavi sidelined for the season with a knee injury, De Jong, returning after two months, appeared rusty. Oriol Romeu's performance in central midfield did little to suggest he can replace Gavi's energy and bite.

In contrast, Rayo was sharp and hungry, making a significant physical effort, although they would pay for that in the closing minutes of the game.

"We didn't play well, we weren't at the level we need to be," De Jong admitted after the game. "We have a good team and the play is good, but we have to be consistent. We have had a lot of injuries and there is a long way to go in the season," the midfielder added.

Xavi made changes as the second half progressed, with Joao Felix and Ilkay Gundogan entering the match 10 minutes into the second half, and Barca slowly began to gain control in midfield.

Fermin Lopez and Raphinha were substituted in with 15 minutes left, enhancing Barca's attack, and they managed to pin Rayo back in their own half. Barcelona finally got their reward with 10 minutes remaining.

Alejandro Balde found space on the left, and his cross, aimed for Robert Lewandowski, was inadvertently directed into his own net by Rayo defender Florian Lejeune, trying to intercept the ball. This gave Barca a point their second-half performance merited, but it won't dispel doubts about their form.



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Title: Barca below par again as Rayo hold them in Vallecas

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