MADRID: Barcelona showed their respect for Liverpool by making 11 changes and fielded, effectively, a reserve team as they suffered their first Spanish league defeat since November by 2-0 away to struggling Celta Vigo.
Ousmane Dembele, a substitute in the 3-0 Champions League semi-final first leg win over Liverpool, was one of few regular starters to face Celta as coach Ernesto Valverde made sweeping changes after clinching the title last weekend.
The win took Celta on to 40 points and a step closer towards guaranteeing survival but it meant 19th-placed Rayo Vallecano became the first team to be relegated, after a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Levante left them on 31 points from 36 games.
Uruguay forward Maxi Gomez gave Celta a deserved lead in the 67th minute, sliding to the floor to divert a low pass beyond Barca’s reserve goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, after the home side saw a goal ruled out for a marginal offside after a VAR review.
Celta’s captain and talisman Iago Aspas then sealed the away side’s win by converting from the penalty spot after another VAR review ruled that Barca’s Samuel Umtiti had handled the ball.
Barca, who lost for the first time since a 4-3 defeat to Betis nearly six months ago, have 83 points while second-placed Atletico have 74 after losing 3-0 at Espanyol.
In Germany . . .
Forty-year-old Claudio Pizarro handed Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title hopes a potentially fatal blow when he scored Werder Bremen’s equaliser, completing their fightback from two goals down, in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
Two stunning first-half goals, a solo effort from Christian Pulisic and a free kick from Paco Alcacer, gave Dortmund a 2-0 lead and put them in complete control before they self-destructed after half-time. Kevin Moehwald pulled one back with a shot which slipped through goalkeeper Roman Buerki’s legs in the 70th minute and Peruvian veteran Pizarro rifled home the equaliser as Werder capitalised on a defensive mix-up five minutes later.
Dortmund dropped four points behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich with two matches each to play, meaning that the Bavarians, who have 74 points from 32 matches, can wrap a seventh successive title by winning at RB Leipzig on Saturday.
Bayern Munich won and moved to the verge of a record-extending seventh straight Bundesliga title. Robert Lewandowski, Leon Goretzka, and Franck Ribery scored for Bayern to beat last-placed Hanover 3-1 at home.
Hanover would have lost by more had goalkeeper Michael Esser not produced a fine performance to keep Bayern at bay, but the side has only mathematical hopes of avoiding relegation after its 22nd defeat from 32 games.
Nurnberg are heading for relegation after losing 2-0 at Wolfsburg. But the two teams’ slim hopes were kept alive thanks to Stuttgart losing at Hertha Berlin 3-1.
In France . . .
Neymar’s second-half penalty rescued Paris Saint-Germain from another defeat as they were held 1-1 by Nice at Parc des Princes.
Ignatius Ganago fired Nice ahead early in the second half, but Neymar hauled PSG level on the hour when he scored his 50th goal for the French champions, from the penalty spot.
PSG squandered a golden chance to snatch victory in stoppage time when Edinson Cavani’s penalty was saved by Nice goalkeeper Walter Benitez.
Thomas Tuchel’s side, who secured the Ligue 1 title two weeks ago, had lost three of their four previous league games and were beaten in the French Cup final on penalties by Rennes last weekend.
In Italy . . .
Inter Milan held to draw at struggling Udinese Inter Milan risk being dragged into a six-way battle for Champions League qualification after being held to their third-consecutive Serie A draw with a 0-0 stalemate at relegation-threatened Udinese.
Luciano Spalletti’s side occupy third place but a tight-knit group of five teams below them could narrow the gap by the end of the weekend.
The Milanese club are on 63 points with three rounds remaining but Atalanta (59), Roma (58), AC Milan (56) and Lazio (55) are yet to play this weekend while Torino are also lingering on 57 points after their draw with Juventus on Friday.
Udinese remain in 17th place on 34 points, five clear of Empoli below them, who face Fiorentina in a Tuscan derby on Sunday. Spal mathematically secured their Serie A status for next season with a resounding 4-0 win away to relegated Chievo that lifts Leonardo Semplicis side into 10th place on 42 points ahead of the remaining weekend fixtures.