SPORTS: BARCELONA 0-0 MALAGA: LUIS ENRIQUE’S MEN HELD

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Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were both
absent from the encounter on Saturday
and Luis Enrique’s men were unable to
break down the resolute visitors without
their guile
Barcelona handed a boost to La Liga
leaders Real Madrid as they were held to a
0-0 home draw by nine-man Malaga on
Saturday.
The champions controlled proceedings, but
looked short of inspiration in the final
third in absence of the suspended Luis
Suarez and the ill Lionel Messi.
Juande Ramos set out his side with a
back three and two ultra-defensive wing-
backs, a system that kept Barca’s static
forward line frustrated for long spells even
though the visitors enjoyed less than 20
per cent of the ball.
Carlos Kameni was in fine form when
Barca did breach the visiting rearguard,
making superb saves to deny Rafinha,
Gerard Pique and Neymar, although
Malaga were fortunate not to concede a
penalty following a clash between Arda
Turan and Federico Ricca.
Diego Llorente was controversially sent off
midway through the second half for a
heavy challenge on Neymar, but despite
their numerical advantage, some sublime
tricks from the Brazilian and a last-minute
red card for Juankar, the three points
proved elusive for Luis Enrique’s side.
The result means Barca close to within a
point of league leaders Madrid, who take
on Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon
in what could prove to be a pivotal derby
clash later on Saturday.
Paco Alcacer had the ball in the net inside
four minutes only to be denied by the
assistant referee’s flag, before Neymar
rippled the side-netting with a well-struck
volley from 20 yards in a solid start for
the home side.
Pique, back in the side following three
league games on the sidelines with an
ankle injury, forced a good save from
Kameni before another header moments
later saw Javier Mascherano steer the ball
onto the post, albeit from an offside
position.
Former Barca forward Sandro Ramirez was
denied two good chances by a low Marc-
Andre ter Stegen stop and a timely Pique
sliding tackle, and a brilliant Kameni
reaction save low to his right to keep out
Rafinha’s effort was the closest the home
side came to a goal in a poor first half.
Barca were enjoying a remarkable 81 per
cent of the possession just after half-time,
but could not find a way through Malaga’s
supreme defence, although Arda was left
bemused when he was caught by a raised
arm by Ricca in the visitors’ penalty area
only to concede a foul himself.
Ter Stegen had been a spectator for
almost all of the first hour, but he was
given a real scare when Juankar raced
onto a loose ball and took it around the
Germany goalkeeper, only to shoot into the
side-netting.
Frustrations were building for the home
fans, but Barca were given a major boost
22 minutes from time when the otherwise
excellent Llorente was given a straight red
card after his lunging challenge, which
was cynical rather than dangerous,
brought down Neymar mid-run.
Pique was thrown forward as an
unorthodox extra striker, as Alcacer
continued to drift anonymously through
proceedings, but the centre-back wasted
his best chance as he headed over the
crossbar from a Mascherano cross.
Barca mounted a late siege of the Malaga
goal, substitute Ivan Rakitic glancing wide
from a corner before Andre Gomes rattled
the crossbar, only for the offside flag to
deny Pique as he tapped in the rebound.
Pique was denied a penalty in the closing
stages after being tugged to ground by
Mikel Villanueva, and Kameni produced
one more piece of magic to claw away
Neymar’s far-post header in the dying
seconds, but Barca’s pressure yielded no
goal as they dropped points at home for
the third time this season – despite
Juankar earning a red card before the
final whistle for something said to the
referee.

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Posted in Sports

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