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Barcelona buckles to blow chance of reeling in Real

China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-10 15:47

MADRID - Neymar was sent off as Barcelona lost 2-0 at Malaga on Saturday to lose more ground on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Real is now three points clear with a game in hand over Barca despite Antoine Griezmann's classy finish five minutes from time snatching a 1-1 draw for Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium earlier in the day.

Real can afford to lose to Barca at home in two weeks' time and still have the title race in its own hands.

"No matter what the table is like, Madrid-Barca is always an attractive game, but winning La Liga depends on winning all the points beforehand," said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

Barcelona buckles to blow chance of reeling in Real

"Today we had a very good opportunity and we couldn't take the points."

Neymar picked up the first red card of his Barcelona career for two bookings as the Catalans were left to rue letting Sandro Ramirez join Malaga for free last summer.

Sandro exposed some awful defending from Jeremy Mathieu to sprint clear on goal and slot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen at his near post.

Malaga also had the better chances in a controversy-filled second half, with Juanpi shooting straight at Ter Stegen when clean through.

Neymar was shown his first yellow card for delaying a Malaga freekick while tying his shoelaces, and with 25 minutes left charged into Diego Llorente to see red.

The host then had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside when substitute Adalberto Penaranda finished off a flowing counter-attack.

Barca was also infuriated with referee Gil Manzano when he awarded a freekick on the edge of the box after Sergi Roberto was brought down inside the area.

Malaga finally picked off the 10 men in the final minute when Pablo Fornals squared for Jony to smash home.

Griez lightning

Barca's defeat meant Real's disappointment earlier in the day was short lived.

Pepe's towering header early in the second half of the Madrid derby looked to have Real heading five points clear at the top.

However, Griezmann rounded Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas to net at the near post five minutes from time.

"It is a draw but we've lost two points. Clearly we deserved all three points today," said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

"We played very well, but we lacked the second goal that would have allowed us to relax."

After a slow start, Real took control of the game as the first half wore on and only two stunning stops prevented Zidane's men from taking a halftime lead.

Firstly, Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak tipped over Karim Benzema's effort after a neat one-two with Cristiano Ronaldo had freed the Frenchman inside the box.

Moments later, Ronaldo couldn't believe his eyes when his fierce strike was turned to safety by Stefan Savic's incredible headed goal-line clearance.

Ronaldo headed just wide after the restart before Oblak rushed from his goal to block Benzema's volley from point-blank range.

The European champion made the breakthrough seven minutes into the second period when Pepe rose highest in a crowded penalty area from Toni Kroos' freekick to power a header into the far corner.

However, Atletico responded to falling behind and should have been level on the hour mark when Yannick Carrasco played in Fernando Torres.

The former Spain international failed to finish, though, as he fired straight at the onrushing Navas.

Navas has faced a barrage of criticism this season, but he made another smart stop to deny Griezmann equalizing with an outrageous overhead-kick attempt.

Griezmann, however, wasn't to be denied when he latched onto an excellent through-ball from Angel Correa with five minutes remaining, coolly firing home at the near post for his 23rd goal of the season.

"We know we are a strong team with an incredible mentality," Griezmann told Spanish TV station Movistar.

"I could see my teammates had confidence, desire and the truth is we played a great game."

Agence France-Presse

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