La Liga – Round-up: Barca blow chance to cut lead



Sloppy defending at set-pieces saw Barcelona twice throw away leads as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Almeria.

FOOTBALL 2007-2008 La Liga Almeria - Barcelona Iniesta gol - 0



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Bojan Krkic gave Barca the lead before Rubén Pulido equalised with a header from a corner; Samuel Eto’o restored the advantage after the break, but Kalu Uche levelled late on with another unmarked header.

The result will be an enormous boost to Real Madrid, were beaten by Deportivo on Saturday but see their lead at the top of the table cut by just a point to seven.

Barcelona, shorn of eight first-team stars through injury and suspension certainly had a valid excuse for their lifeless performance, although they did look a much better side once coach Frank Rijkaard brought Thierry Henry off the bench in the second half.

Barcelona took an 18th-minute lead when Bojan tucked home his fifth league goal of the season from close range after Almeria keeper Diego Alves had tamely palmed Andres Iniesta‘s low shot into his path.

But the Catalan giants otherwise looked lacklustre allowing Almeria to grow in confidence as the half went on, and it came as no surprise when they grabbed an equaliser, Rubén Pulido, a former Real Madrid man, ghosting in unmarked at a corner to guide a header inside the far post.

The goal sparked five minutes of desperate defending from Barca, who were twice fortunate not to concede a second, Víctor Valdés needing to be alert to efforts from Negredo and Juan Manuel Ortiz.

Bojan had a chance to put his side back in front three minutes before the break when he sprinted on to Iniesta’s superb pass, but Alves palmed away his one-on-one effort.

Rijkaard threw on Henry for defensive midfielder Edmilson 10 minutes into the second half as he searched for more of a cutting edge in the final third, and earned immediate reward for his decision.

Henry ghosted past Aitor López Rekarte on the left-edge of the box before pulling the ball back from the dead-ball-line to Eto’o, who stabbed home from close range.

The former Arsenal made should have put the game to bed just five minutes later, but he hit his shot straight at the keeper after cutting in from the left to meet Bojan’s low cross.

The sending off of Argentina defender Gabriel Milito with 15 minutes remaining meant a reshuffle at the back for Barcelona, and they looked to be comfortably holding on to the points.

That was until substitute Uche made a near-post run at a corner to glance a header inside the far post in identical fashion to Almeria’s opener, to the obvious dismay of everyone on the Barca bench.

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Mallorca will wonder how they lost this one after striker Daniel Guiza gave them an early lead, as they created a host of chances. They were pegged back when Espanyol’s Luis Garcia was fouled in the area just after the break, and the Spain striker levelled from the penalty spot. Garcia grabbed his second with a far-post header in the 89th minute.

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Getafe gained the psychological edge over their Copa del Rey semi-final opponents ahead of Wednesday’s second leg, with this comeback win. Poland striker Ebi Smolarek headed Racing in front just after the break but Nigeria striker Ikechukwu Uche levelled with a far post half-volley in the 67th minute. Midfielder Jaime Gavilan headed the winner 13 minutes from time and Racing goalkeeper Tono lost his head to get himself sent off. Getafe’s Braulio followed him down the tunnel.

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Struggling Valladolid edged out of the relegation places with this draw while Osasuna made it four games unbeaten.

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Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci lobbed the keeper to put Villarreal ahead after only 11 minutes but it was Zaragoza who dominated from there on as they called Diego Lopez into action on numerous occasions. The home side were awarded a penalty in the 66th minute which Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi put away to leave Zaragoza deep in relegation trouble.

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Uruguay striker Diego Forlan scores either side of half-time as Atletico Madrid moved them back in to fourth place on 47 points, two ahead of Sevilla and Espanyol in fifth and sixth respectively. Portugal winger Simao scored the opener after 25 minutes before Forlan finished the game.

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