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Primera División

Barcelona blow golden chance to draw level with Real Madrid

00:24 EAT 09/04/2017
Lionel Messi Malaga Barcelona La Liga
Luis Enrique made too many changes, perhaps with the Champions League in mind, as his side lost ground in the title race


An opportunity wasted for Barcelona. After Real Madrid were pegged back by Atletico in the derby earlier on Saturday, Luis Enrique's side had a golden chance to draw level with the Blancos at the top of the table. But they were unable to take advantage.

Barca beaten by Malaga and lose ground in title race

Madrid looked comfortable enough after Pepe's header gave them the lead in the capital clash at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, Zinedine Zidane's side conceded late in the game and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

That meant Barca could go joint top of the table by beating Malaga and with the Andalusians on a three-game losing streak at La Rosaleda, it seemed the Catalans would not have too much trouble.

However, Luis Enrique's side have struggled when key players have been out this term and the Blaugrana came up against an inspired Carlos Kameni in the first half as Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi missed good chances.

It was their former forward, Sandro Ramirez, who shot Malaga in front, but it was poor defending by Jeremy Mathieu that allowed the 21-year-old to race clear and fire past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

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Mathieu is one of the fringe players probably not good enough for Barca at this stage and another, Andre Gomes, cannot seem to do much right either. The Portuguese midfielder is not a bad footballer, but Barcelona are never the same side when he is on the pitch.

He was replaced for the second half as Andres Iniesta was sent on to inspire the team along with Paco Alcacer. But again, Barca missed chances and the Catalans did not really find their rhythm.

Then Neymar was sent off in what looked like a straight red card for a needless shove on Diego Llorente and after that the game really opened up. Barca took risks in search of a leveller and in the end, Luis Enrique's side ended up conceding a late goal to Jony.

So instead of drawing level with Madrid on top of La Liga, Barca are now even further behind than they were at the start of the day. The Catalans are three points adrift and although there is a Clasico clash still to come, that is at the Bernabeu. And Real also have a game in hand.

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Neymar's dismissal was definitely harsh, while Malaga's heavy-handed treatment of Messi largely went unpunished and there were also a couple of strong penalty shouts for the champions - one which looked to be inside the area but was adjudged to have been outside. However, the home side saw a goal wrongly ruled out for offside as well.

Ultimately, Barca were unable to find the net themselves and this performance was not good enough on a night that they should have finished at the summit of the Primera Division alongside Madrid.

With Rafinha out injured, Iniesta kept in reserve until the second half and Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic both banned, this was a subdued showing from Barca's second string - and it makes Madrid's draw with Atletico appear a good result after all as the Blancos remain favourites for the title.