Leaders Barcelona returned to winning ways in La Liga as Lionel Messi netted his 30th goal of the season before missing his second penalty of the game 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid.
Gerard Pique won the 43rd-minute spot kick that proved the difference between the sides but, following back-to-back draws against Valencia and Athletic Bilbao in the top flight, Ernesto Valverde’s men were again short of their fluent best.
Those previous results and Atletico Madrid’s win over third-bottom Rayo Vallecano earlier on Saturday meant Barca went into the game with their now-restored lead at the top trimmed to four points.
Former Blaugrana goalkeeper Jordi Masip impressed in goal for Valladolid, not least after substitute Philippe Coutinho won a second penalty and he plunged to his left to deny Messi.
Referee Juan Martinez Munuera rejected earlier penalty claims from Kevin-Prince Boateng on his first LaLiga start but was persuaded by Pique’s slightly theatrical fall under Michel’s clumsy challenge.
Masip guessed correctly to his left but was beaten for power and accuracy by Messi, before Pique made himself useful in his own box – getting a vital touch with Enes Unal poised to convert Nacho’s cross.