BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele struck in stoppage time to snatch a vital 1-0 win at home to Real Valladolid in La Liga on Monday to pull his side one point behind leaders Atletico Madrid.
Valladolid produced a disciplined yet bold performance and could have taken an early lead when Kenan Kodro headed against the bar, while Roque Mesa had two clear sights at goal from outside the box but failed to hit the target each time.
Barca came close to scoring right before halftime when their former goalkeeper Jordi Masip palmed a strike from Pedri on to the post.
The keeper thwarted Dembele in the second half and then watched on in relief as Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound just wide.
The Catalans were dealt a helping hand when Valladolid's Oscar Plano was shown a straight red card in the 79th minute for a tackle from behind on Dembele.
The sending off was fiercely protested by the visitors, who had appealed for a penalty earlier in the second half when the ball struck the hand of Barca defender Jordi Alba. However, the referee decided the handball was accidental after a VAR review.
Barca finally took advantage of having an extra man when French forward Dembele caught a loose ball in the air with his left foot, slamming it inside the near post.
A sixth consecutive league win took Barca back into second place and moved them on to 65 points, two above third-placed Real Madrid and one behind Atletico, who were beaten 1-0 at Sevilla on Sunday.
Barca visit Real Madrid next Saturday with the chance to go top of the table a day before Atletico visit Real Betis.
"My sensation from the dugout was that we were always capable of winning the game right until the end. The players proved that they always had faith until the last minute," said Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
"Sometimes you have to really suffer to win and that's good too. La Liga is also about suffering."
PRAISE FOR DEMBELE
The Dutchman also heaped praise on Dembele, who was beset by injuries and criticised for lacking professionalism in his first few years at Barca but has hit the best form of his career this season.
"It's vital for us for him to be at the top of his game, he gives us a lot when it comes to taking on opponents and he can play all across the front line," Koeman said.
"You can play in different ways when he is in the team and today he scored the goal we needed."
Barca defender Clement Lenglet added: "This shows how difficult this league is and that we'll have to really fight in every game to win it.
"We faced a great side who played out of their skin, it was a really difficult game for us but an important victory. This run is all down to hard work, things weren't clicking for us earlier in the season but now they are."
Valladolid keeper Masip said his side left the Camp Nou "with a bittersweet taste", feeling pleased with their performance but aggrieved at not earning a point, especially after having Plano sent off.
"It's a real shame that all that hard work was thrown away because of a one-off incident," he added.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)