Barcelona head Real by one point after late draw

November 1st, 2009 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

AC Milan Madrid, Nov 1 (DPA) Barcelona are just one point ahead of Real Madrid after conceding a late 1-1 draw away to dogged Osasuna.
Seydou Keita seemed to have won the Saturday’s match for Barca with a goal 18 minutes from time, but an injury-time own goal from Gerard Pique gave Osasuna an unexpected point.

“We have thrown away two points here,” said an irritated Barca captain Carles Puyol.

Coach Josep Guardiola, for his part, said that “we have not gained a point, we have lost two.”

He added that “I am content with the way that we played, but it bothers me not to have won when we had it so close.”

Barca now have 23 points, just one more than Real, who beat Getafe 2-0 at home earlier on Saturday, despite having defender Raul Albiol sent off after just 28 minutes.

Barca looked sluggish in the first half in Pamplona but stepped up a gear after the interval.

They took the lead in the 72nd minute, when Lionel Messi set Puyol clear down the right and the captain’s precise centre was turned in by the in-form Keita.

Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic then missed good chances to finish off Osasuna.

The reprieved hosts came forward gamely at the end, more in hope than expectation. Three minutes into injury time, Javier Camunas slipped past Rafa Marquez down the right - and his centre was clumsily turned into his own goal by Pique.

It was Barca’s second consecutive draw on the road. Two weeks ago they were held 0-0 in Valencia.

Earlier on Saturday, Gonzalo Higuain had spared Real’s blushes with two second-half goals against naive Getafe.

“We knew that we had to win today,” said Higuain, “after the bad week that we have had.”

Real were astonishingly thrashed 4-0 on Tuesday by third division Alcorcon in the King’s Cup.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team were jeered onto their field by their own fans and they made a nervous start. However, the harsh sending-off of Albiol in the 28th minute - for pulling down Getafe forward Roberto Soldado - caused the hosts to play with more spirit and the crowd to get behind their team.

Higuain’s goals came within three minutes of each other, at the start of the second half.

In the 54th minute Marcelo set up Higuain to make it 1-0 with a low left-foot drive. Getafe naively left gaps at the back, and Karim Benzema set up the Argentine to make it 2-0.

Higuain even had three chances to complete a hat-trick while Getafe continued to weave pretty patterns, but failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority.

The win relieves the pressure on the embattled Pellegrini - at least until Tuesday’s Champions League clash away to AC Milan.

The Chilean coach said that “we have recovered our spirit ..from a spiritual point of view, I wanted a game like this.”

Pellegrini added that “we have won all five of our (league) matches at home, scoring 16 goals and conceding just four.”

Sevilla, meanwhile, consolidated themselves in third place with a 2-0 win away to lowly Xerez, with goals from strikers Alvaro Negredo and Luis Fabiano.

Sevilla are three points behind Real, with 19 points, and four ahead of fourth-placed Valencia, who are away to bottom team Malaga on Sunday.

Saturday’s late game saw Athletic Bilbao beat troubled Atletico Madrid 1-0, Javi Martinez heading in the only goal in the 19th minute.

Atletico dominated the second half but star strikers Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan were both foiled by the posts.

Atletico have just seven points and could crash down to second from bottom if Sunday’s results go against them.

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