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 to score 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 serious 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.

Barcelona was hard hit by what coach Xavi Hernández called a “small plague” of injuries during the international break, snaring defenders Jules Koundé, Ronald Araújo, Héctor Bellerín, midfielder Frenkie de Jong and forward Memphis Depay. That, combined with a prior injury to Sergi Roberto, left Xavi without any of his right backs.

His answer was to shift 18-year-old Alejandro Balde over to the right side after he won the starting job at left back this season from veteran Jordi Alba. 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.

SEVILLA SUFFERS

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.”

Koke set a new record for the most games played in the history of Atlético. At age 30, the Spain midfielder has 554 appearances for his club.

Llorente’s goal ended a scoring draught that extended through the entire 2021-22 season. The previous season he struck 12 league goals to help Atlético win the domestic title.

ALSO

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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Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press