Barcelona slip up in Getafe stalemate

AFP , Saturday 13 Dec 2014

Getafe vs. Barcelona
Getafe’s Sarabia, right, duels for the ball with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Getafe and Barcelona, at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Barcelona's La Liga title hopes suffered a blow as they fell four points behind leaders Real Madrid after being held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at Getafe on Saturday.

In a bitty first half at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez the visitors were indebted to goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who kept his side on level terms with a top-drawer save from an Angel Lafita effort.

Barca improved after the break and piled on the pressure, yet were unable to find a way past Vicente Guaita with Lionel Messi striking the bar from a free-kick and some resolute defending from the Getafe back line.

In a match played out in unforgiving conditions, Barcelona desperately missed the attacking presence of Neymar, who was absent through an ankle injury, and notably lacked a cutting edge in the final third as they were frustrated by the home side's defence, who were able to limit the Blaugrana to few clear-cut chances.

The Catalan outfit saw a couple of long-range efforts fly over from Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, before Messi forced a block from Guaita in the home side's goal after combining well with the Croatia international as they sought to make the breakthrough.

Guaita could then only punch a cross as far as Pedro Rodriguez on the edge of the box, but the Spain international's mishit effort was turned just wide by Suarez, who is still looking for his first Liga goal.

Both sides then felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty within a minute of each other as firstly Juan Valera appeared to handle the ball while on the ground as Messi looked to dribble past him, before in the next attack Lafita's cross struck Dani Alves on the arm.

Referee Inaki Vicandi Garrido was unmoved on both occasions.

As the half wore on Getafe took the initiative, and the home side were unlucky to not go into the break leading after Lafita beat Alves and Pique on the edge of the box, only to see a rasping drive somehow tipped round the post by Claudio Bravo at full stretch.

Barcelona came out for the second half with noticeably more attacking intent, and went close to opening the scoring after Messi, who had been brought down by Emiliano Velazquez on the edge of the box, saw a free-kick clatter the crossbar before Suarez fired wildly over from distance.

Guaita then kept out another Messi effort as the pressure grew, with captain Xavi Hernandez volleying just wide and Messi heading over when well positioned.

However, despite the introduction of Andres Iniesta and Munir El Haddadi, they couldn't find the breakthrough as Getafe held on bravely for a point.

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