Lewandowski leads Barça at Mallorca; Atlético tops Sevilla
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Robert Lewandowski scored again to lead Barcelona’s 1-0 win at Mallorca on Saturday as the Poland newcomer continues destroying defenses in the Spanish league.
Mallorca tried to keep Barcelona in check by packing a line of four midfielders in front of five defenders close to its area. But a moment of inspiration by Lewandowski was all it took to ruin the plan of coach Javier Aguirre.
Mallorca’s defense appeared to have Lewandowski under control in the 20th minute after Ansu Fati played him clear on the left side of the box, but Lewandowski quickly cut back to his right foot and fired a pinpoint strike in off the far post.
That took Lewandowski to a league-leading nine goals and 12 overall counting the Champions League. He has scored in six straight rounds after failing only in the league opener.
The victory lifted Barcelona into the league lead at one point ahead of Real Madrid before the defending champion plays Osasuna on Sunday.
Barcelona was unable to produce much more in attack, but Mallorca never seriously looked for an equalizer and forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into action only when he blocked Jaume Costa’s effort to redirect a cross in the 35th.
“(Lewandowski) made the difference today, but also our defensive work and our circulation of the ball, in addition to Ter Stegen’s saves, were key to this win,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said.
“We were good at being patient,” Xavi added. “It is always difficult to attack a system of 5-4-1. It was tough. We should have gone for a second goal but it wasn’t easy coming back from the international break.”
Barcelona was depleted by injuries from the international break, leaving Xavi without any of his right backs. His answer was to shift 18-year-old Alejandro Balde to the right side after he won the starting job at left back from veteran Jordi Alba. Balde said it was the first time he played at that position. Gerard Pique also got his second start of the season.
Barcelona next visits Inter Milan on Tuesday in back-to-back Champions League games against the Italian team in their difficult group that also includes Lewandowski’s former team Bayern Munich.
Atlético Madrid put more pressure on beleaguered coach Julen Lopetegui after Álvaro Morata and Marcos Llorente scored in a 2-0 win at Sevilla.
Sevilla’s frustrated fans booed their team for another poor performance since the club sold off prized center backs Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos this summer without replacing them.
Sevilla has only one win in nine games across all competitions. The defeat left it in 16th place and just one point above the relegation zone. Atlético moved into fifth.
Llorente opened the scoring in the 29th when the midfielder received a pass by Koke Resurrección across the top of the area and fired under goalkeeper Yassine Bounou from an angle.
Morata, whose winner over Portugal put Spain into the Nations League finals this week, chipped Bounou for a second goal in the 57th. Sevilla’s defense was partly to blame as it failed to prevent Morata and attack partner Cunha from winning a long goalkick by Jan Oblak.
“Sevilla is a winning club, the expectations are always high, and our fans are not happy, it is normal,” Bounou said about the loud jeers his team received at fulltime.
“The only thing we can do is to turn this around as quickly as possible.”
Atlético enjoyed a couple of milestones. Koke made a club record 554th appearance, and Llorente ended a scoring drought that extended through the entire 2021-22 season.
Sergio León scored twice to lead Valladolid to a 3-2 win at Getafe that was secured by goalkeeper Jordi Masip when he saved a late penalty by Enes Unal.
Villarreal was held at Cádiz to 0-0.
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