Barcelona stumble, Actual maintain tempo with Atletico

Barcelona, February 21

Cadiz snatched a late penalty to draw 1-1 at Camp Nou and deal Barcelona an unexpected setback in their bid for the Spanish league title.

Five days after being beaten 4-1 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Ronald Koeman’s side saw two points slip away when substitute Alex Fernandez converted an 88th-minute penalty conceded by Clement Lenglet.

Lionel Messi appeared to put Barcelona on their way to an easy win in his club record 506th league appearance in Spain. But after Messi scored from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute, Barcelona were unable to finish off many scoring chances.

The draw leaves Barcelona in third place at eight points behind leader Atletico Madrid, who lost 2-0 to Levante on Saturday. Real Madrid were the biggest beneficiary of the round, moving three points behind Atletico after winning 1-0 at Valladolid also on Saturday. Madrid have played one more match than Atletico and Barcelona.

“These are two hard blows this week,” Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said. “There is a way to go in the league, but we didn’t count on this. If we can get on a good run of play and get good results, we can still have a shot. It is going to be difficult,” Pique said.

Barcelona had 80% of possession and out-shot Cadiz 20-3. But a clumsy foul by Lenglet — when he kicked Ruben Sobrino in the leg while trying to clear a ball on the edge of the area — ruined a strong performance that only lacked a second goal.

“I am very, very disappointed, even more than on Tuesday,” Koeman said. “We were on a good run in the league, and we had a game at home with the chance to cut into the lead of those ahead of us. It is a game that this team, with its talent, has to win.” — AP

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