Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as Barcelona eased to a 3-1 win over 10-man Celta Vigo in a game overshadowed by Ronald Araujo leaving the field in an ambulance.
Araujo clashed heads with Gavi shortly after the hour mark at Camp Nou and, after initially appearing to run off the injury, collapsed to the floor before being attended to by medics.
That incident came shortly after Iago Aspas had struck to give Celta some hope following Memphis Depay’s opener and a couple of goals from Aubameyang either side of half-time.
But a red card for former Barca loanee Jeison Murillo ultimately left the visitors, who recovered from three down to draw 3-3 in the reverse fixture, with too much to do in Tuesday’s LaLiga contest.
LATEST NEWS | Ronald Araujo has suffered a concussion and has been taken to the hospital to undergo further testing pic.twitter.com/XdcgtO2dpn
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Dembele showed superb trickery to take the ball past two opponents and pull it back for Depay to sweep past Matias Dituro, who got a hand to the shot but could not keep it out.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, returning from illness that ruled him out last weekend, kept out Thiago Galhardo at full stretch and denied the same player from a header soon after.
Barca doubled their advantage before the interval through Aubameyang, who tucked into the bottom-right corner after Nestor Araujo failed to deal with Depay’s cross into the box.
Aubameyang took advantage of some more good play from Dembele three minutes after the interval by clinically sweeping home Barca’s third.
A poor pass from Ter Stegen to Araujo allowed Galhardo to pounce and play in Aspas, but Celta’s momentum was halted when last man Murillo fouled Depay and was sent off.
Barcelona saw Araujo leave the field with a head injury soon after and had a fourth goal for substitute Riqui Puig ruled out for offside, but they had no trouble seeing out the win, despite 11 minutes being added on.
What does it mean? Barca tighten grip on second
Barca sealed a top-four finish with a late win over Real Betis on Saturday and tightened their grip on second place with this win – just a fourth in 10 league meetings with Celta.
Xavi’s side are now seven points clear of third-placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand, meaning one win from their two matches will make certain of the runners-up spot.
While the manner of this victory will please Xavi, however, his immediate concern will be the well-being of defender Araujo following the sickening second-half incident.
Dembele into double digits
Dembele set up a couple of goals and now has 13 LaLiga assists for the season, 11 of those coming since the turn of the year – at which point he looked destined to move clubs.
That is the most of any player in Europe’s top five leagues in 2022, one more than former team-mate Lionel Messi at Paris Saint-Germain.
Aspas now has 10 goals in 15 LaLiga games against Barcelona, which is one more than Cristiano Ronaldo and equal with Diego Forlan for the most against them in LaLiga this century.
That goal gave Celta temporary hope, but Murillo – who spent time on loan at Camp Nou in 2019 – stupidly got himself dismissed and that was that as far as the visitors’ hopes of salvaging another comeback against the Blaugrana.
Barcelona travel to Getafe for their final away match of the season on Sunday, the same day that Celta host Elche.
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