Barcelona 2-2 Atletico Madrid
Barcelona’s La Liga title hopes have taken another significant hit as they were held to a second successive 2-2 draw, this time at home to Atletico Madrid.
Lionel Messi had scored his milestone 700th goal to put the home side ahead a second time, but Saul Niguez equalised twice through the penalty spot to hand Atleti a share of the spoils. Barca are one point behind rivals Real Madrid, who still have a game in hand.
It’s been a truly disastrous last few days for Barca, who are a club in crisis. The team reportedly had a bust-up with manager Quique Setien after the Celta draw, which was then followed by the controversial sale of midfielder Arthur to Juventus to help ease their financial woes.
These are dark days at the Camp Nou, and there appears to be no end in sight.
Highlights of the game
There was some big La Liga 2020 news just before the match as Setien opted to start Riqui Puig in midfield, with the Juventus-bound Arthur on the bench. And the 20-year-old almost made an immediate impact.
Puig’s broke from midfield with a burst of pace and set up Luis Suarez for the first chance of the match after just over a minute. Unfortunately, the Uruguayan’s first-time effort was tame and straight at Jan Oblak.
Atleti almost opened the scoring on six minutes. Yannick Carrasco whipped in a beautiful free-kick across the face of the goal, but neither Jose Gimenez nor Diego Costa could get a decisive touch.
Costa would eventually find the back of the net on 11 minutes — but on the wrong end. Messi’s dangerous corner came to Costa, who diverted the ball past Oblak for an own-goal.
Costa’s nightmare match would get even worse just a few minutes later. Atletico were awarded a penalty after Arturo Vidal brought down Carrasco inside the penalty area. Costa stepped up to take the penalty, which was then saved by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
But Costa and Atleti were handed a huge lifeline as Ter Stegen was adjudged to have left his line early, which meant the penalty had to be re-taken. This time, Saul took over from Costa and duly slotted home Atletico’s equaliser.
Messi, who was searching for his milestone 700th goal, almost got it on 22 minutes, but his magnificent curling effort went just inches from hitting the top corner.
He once again came close just before half-time when his free-kick took a big deflection. The wrong-footed Oblak was able to recover in time to palm the ball over the bar, though.
But as noted in SBOBET’s preview of this match, Messi has an amazing scoring record against Atletico, and his goal would come just five minutes after the break. Nelson Semedo was brought down by Felipe just inside the box, which gave Barca a penalty.
There was only one man who was going to step up to take the kick. Messi finally scored his 700th goal in style with a ‘Panenka’ penalty to put Barca back ahead.
However, there was to be one last twist to this game as Atletico were awarded another penalty just after the hour mark. Carrasco once again went down after minimal contact from Semedo.
Again, Saul took responsibility for the spot-kick, which just squeezed in despite Ter Stegen getting his hands on the ball.
Messi was unable to conjure up any more magic in the last half-hour as Atleti would hold on for a hard-fought draw.
Barcelona have made a habit of controlling over 70 per cent of possession under Quique Setien, and they once again reached that mark against Atleti.
But again, they weren’t able to do much with the ball. They just barely edge out the visitors in terms of both total shots (12-10) and shots on target (5-3).
Messi, who had half of Barca’s shots and set up some others, improved upon his incredible scoring record against Atleti. He has now scored 32 of his 700 career goals in 41 matches against them.
Meanwhile, Barca extended their unbeaten run over Atleti in the league to 20 matches (14 wins, six draws).
Barcelona’s La Liga 2020 odds of winning the title have gotten significantly worse after three draws in their last four matches. And any hope they might still have could be all but gone if Real beat Getafe with their game in hand and they fail to be an in-form Villarreal at El Madrigal on the weekend.
As for Atletico, they will look to extend their unbeaten run in the league to 11 matches when they face relegation scrappers Mallorca.
CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS
Stay updated with everything sports and betting.