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Barcelona begins year with La Liga win to edge closer to Champions League places


After a torrid start to the season, during which Barça lingered in the bottom half of the table, new head coach Xavi has slowly started to right the ship with just one defeat in seven La Liga matches.

It has been far from pretty at times — Barcelona needed last-minute heroics from goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen to preserve the three points against Mallorca — but putting points on the board is all that matters during this rocky transitional period.

Ter Stegen’s importance to the team was encapsulated in the 91st minute on Sunday with a stunning one-handed save from Jaume Costa’s close-range effort, leading Barcelona defender Eric García to eulogize that Barcelona “owes 70 percent of the win to Ter Stegen.”

Barcelona's Luuk de Jong (R) celebrates after scoring the game's only goal.

“He was spectacular and he’s a top goalkeeper,” García told Movistar TV. “We know he responds in moments like that.

“Mallorca were pressing and we knew we had to soak it up and we’ve shown we are able to do that.”

The win moves Barça into fifth place, just one point behind Atlético Madrid in the fourth and final Champions League spot.

It was a good weekend all around for the Blaugrana, with two of the top three — Real Madrid and Real Betis — dropping points.

Real suffered a shock defeat away to struggling Getafe, with Enes Ünal’s ninth-minute goal the difference between the two sides.

Getafe's Turkish forward Enes Ünal celebrates after his early goal against Real Madrid.

Despite dominating possession and forcing Getafe goalkeeper David Soria to make numerous impressive saves, Real head coach Carlo Ancelotti was far from pleased with his side’s performance.

“There’s not a lot to say about the game, we stayed on holiday for an extra day,” Ancelotti told reporters. “We weren’t the same team that ended the year.

“We were less focused and less committed. A draw would have been fair because we didn’t deserve to lose, but we gifted a goal and we lost. It should be a wake-up call.”

However, the result wasn’t damaging for Real’s La Liga title hopes as Los Blancos still boast an eight-point lead over second place Sevilla, which has two games in hand on the league leader and plays later on Monday.

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