Lionel Messi's absence was sorely felt by Barcelona on Tuesday as Ronald Koeman's side were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Eibar at Camp Nou.
Barca had given Messi – who was watching from the stands – a break to nurse an ankle injury, but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's creativity and goal threat was badly missed as the hosts dropped points for the eighth time in 15 LaLiga games this season.
Martin Braithwaite was duly punished for an early penalty miss – a LaLiga-high third of the campaign for the Catalan giants – when Kike Garcia took full advantage of a Ronald Araujo error in the 57th minute.
Substitute Ousmane Dembele salvaged a draw for Barca 10 minutes later, although they are seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid despite having played two games more.
Full Time pic.twitter.com/9jhwGNN1XQ— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 29, 2020
Barca squandered a golden opportunity to take an eighth-minute lead, Braithwaite dragging his spot-kick wide after referee Javier Alberola Rojas had used the pitchside monitor to penalise Pedro Bigas for a foul on Araujo.
The Denmark international thought he had made amends shortly after the midway point of the first half, but his cool strike from Junior Firpo's cross was ruled out by VAR for offside.
Antoine Griezmann then pulled an effort wide from outside the penalty area as Barca went in at the interval having had just a solitary shot on target.
Dembele and Miralem Pjanic flashed strikes wide in the early stages of the second half before the former was denied by Marko Dmitrovic after being played clean through.
The Frenchman was made to pay for that miss when Kike picked Araujo's pocket inside the Barca half and coolly slotted past Marc-Andre ter Stegen for his fifth goal of the campaign.
Dembele belatedly got the better of Dmitrovic in the 67th minute, firing home at the back post after Junior's cross flashed across the face of goal.
Francisco Trincao clipped narrowly wide of Dmitrovic's right-hand post in stoppage time as Barca missed the opportunity to make up ground on Atleti ahead of the leaders' clash with Getafe on Wednesday.
What does it mean? Another defensive lapse costs hosts
The result extended Barca's unbeaten streak in LaLiga to five games – their longest run in the competition under Koeman – but there was little to celebrate after taking just a point against a side they had won 11 of their previous 12 previous top-flight games against.
Messi's return will give them more firepower but the Argentine superstar will not be able to do anything about their woeful defending. Kike's strike was the fourth time this season a Barca error has led to a goal – more than any other team in the league.
Dembele a rare bright spot
Dembele was the only Barca player who could be pleased with his contribution. His goal came from one of three shots – the most of any Barca player – while he made a game-high four key passes, despite only playing 45 minutes.
Griezmann fails to fill Messi void
The France international endured a game to forget, having just one shot on target and failing to create a chance for a team-mate before he was hauled off in the 66th minute. Messi cannot return soon enough.
Barca travel to rock-bottom Huesca on Sunday, the same day Eibar host Granada.