The Blaugrana were held to an entertaining draw as they let more points slip at the top of the table...
Almeria twice led against Barcelona tonight, but had to settle for a 2-2 draw. Domingo Cisma and a Carles Puyol own goal had given the hosts the lead, but Lionel Messi twice pegged them back while Pep Guardiola and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were both shown red cards.
Following a 15-minute delay to proceedings, Xavi tested Diego Alves before Lionel Messi played in Pedro who slid the ball across the six-yard box but Hernan Pellerano made a superb intervention to clear the danger.
In the 12th minute, Almeria took the lead against the run of play. After Carles Puyol gave away a needless corner, Fernando Soriano whipped in the set piece and Domingo Cisma jumped above Puyol to head past Victor Valdes into the corner.
Five minutes later, Alves conceded a free kick for picking up a backpass, but his indiscretion went unpunished as Barca made nothing of the opportunity. Messi then won a free kick on the edge of the box as he went down following Pellerano's challenge, but Alves made a good save from Xavi's curling effort.
Guilherme tested Valdes' reactions with a shot from the left hand side of the box and the keeper was fortunate to see Puyol on hand to clear the danger after he spilled a simple shot. Pedro and Iniesta combined well midway through the first half, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed woefully wide after Iniesta sent in a delightful cross.
Real Madrid players and fans would have been watching on with delight at Almeria's efforts, and just before the half hour the referee decided to send Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola to the stands for protesting.
The majority of the possession belonged to Barcelona, but Almeria were defending stoically against the Blaugrana's attacks. In the 42nd minute, Ibrahimovic and Hernan Bernardello tumbled over on the edge of the box and the referee surprisingly blew for a free kick in the visitors' favour. This time there was no mistake as Messi stood up and chipped it over the wall into the corner, with Alves completely flat-footed.
The second half began in much the same fashion as the first finished, with the visitors dominating possession and territory. Almeria still posed a threat, and after Soriano shaped to shoot on the edge of the box he played a clever through ball for Guilherme, who fired the ball across goal but couldn't quite find Piatti.
The threat of Guilherme wasn't heeded, and the Brazilian was able to put another low cross into the box in the 57th minute and this time Puyol could only turn it into his own net. Valdes was furious as he felt he could have claimed the cross himself, but the Spanish champions were behind again.
It went from bad to worse on the hour mark when Ibrahimovic needlessly kicked out at Cisma in the penalty area with the ball nowhere near either player, and the Swede was deservedly sent off.
Messi had a chance to equalise for a second time in the 64th minute when he lined up a free kick in an almost identical position to the one from which he scored in the first half, but this time it flew off target. Minutes later, he was not so profligate. Pedro crossed the ball into the box and Guilherme's poor header came to the feet of Messi to turn home from close range.
The Argentine was carrying Barcelona on his shoulders as he weaved his way past a couple of challenges before bringing a good save from Alves, while Xavi fired a shot inches over the bar after easing past Modeste M'Bami. Dani Alves threw himself to the floor after easily beating Cisma in order to try and win a penalty, but the referee was having none of it.
Albert Crusat then tried exactly the same tactic at the other end against Dani Alves, but he was no more successful than the Brazilian full back had been. Almeria should have taken the lead for a third time after Henok Goitom beat Puyol before cutting the ball back to Soriano, but he blasted his shot over the bar.
With 10 minutes to go, Barcelona were looking to Messi for more inspiration and he nearly provided it with a shot from the edge of the box, but Alves made a superb stop to his left. Almeria were also looking for the winning goal, with Kalu Uche breaking into the box with just a couple of minutes to go but his shot flashed wide of the near post.
That was to be the last of the action, and the referee called time on an entertaining 2-2 draw after four minutes of injury time.