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Breakout youngster Fermin Lopez fires Barca past lowly Almeria


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Young Barcelona midfielder Fermin Lopez struck twice to secure his team a hard-fought 2-0 win at Almeria on Thursday in La Liga.

The 21-year-old reached 10 goals for the season in his breakthrough campaign on a night Barcelona struggled but eventually overcame their already-relegated opponents.

In the hours before the game Spanish media reported Barcelona president Joan Laporta did not travel to the match in Almeria because he was unhappy with coach Xavi Hernandez's pre-match comments.

Xavi had highlighted the club's financial difficulties in comparison to the strength of new Spanish champions Real Madrid.

"They haven't told me anything personally... we travelled with the sporting vice-president, more directors, all normally," Xavi told reporters.

"I said what I think is real, that we will fight for all the trophies, with a lot of hope, with ambition, but that the situation is not easy.

"We are working very well, the club most of all, to change this situation."

In January, with the team struggling badly, the coach said he would leave at the end of the season. He changed his mind in April after the team had gone on a strong run, despite being knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals.

Los Blancos took the title back out of Barcelona's hands without breaking a sweat, suffering just one defeat and winning with four games to spare, while reaching the Champions League final.

For Barcelona it is a trophyless season but the Catalans are close to securing second place, ahead of upstarts Girona, third and now four points behind.

Lopez's goals did the job in the south-east of Spain but it was far from a vintage performance from Barcelona against their relegated, rock-bottom opponents.

They took the lead after 14 minutes, with Lopez showing his knack for arriving in the area with perfect timing to reach Hector Fort's cross and nod home.

'Fight for second'

Leo Baptistao missed the hosts' best chance of the first half, firing wide when well placed.

Lamine Yamal threatened as Barcelona sought a second, while Adri Embarba fired against the upright at the other end. 

Anthony Lozano fired off-target with the goal at his mercy, demonstrating some of the issues Almeria have had this season.

Lopez doubled Barcelona's lead after 67 minutes with a well-taken finish from Sergi Roberto's cut-back and that was enough to kill off Almeria's hopes of taking anything from the game.

"I'm happy to help the team with goals but above all for the win," Lopez told Movistar.

"We will fight for second until the end, it's our objective now."

Earlier Betis and Las Palmas shared the spoils in an entertaining battle which finished 2-2, with a point not entirely pleasing either side.

The Canary Islanders, 14th, are six points clear of the relegation zone and if Pejino had scored a last gasp chance, they would now be safe.

Betis lost two points in the tussle for Europa League football against Real Sociedad and had key playmaker Isco hobble off after taking a knock to the calf.

Real Sociedad beat Valencia 1-0 to jump into sixth place, a point ahead of Betis, seventh, with the sides meeting in Seville on Sunday in a crunch clash.

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