(AFP) – Barcelona’s slim hopes of retaining their La Liga title were all but ended after they were held 2-2 at home by struggling Getafe on Saturday.
The Catalans now trail leaders Atletico Madrid by three points with just two games remaining and having played a game more, whilst Real Madrid are just three points further back but with two games in hand over Barca.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring with a fine finish, but Barca were pegged pack when Angel Lafita levelled just before half-time.
The Spanish champions improved going forward after the break and deservedly went back in front when Alexis Sanchez drilled the ball home 23 minutes from time, but they were stunned in injury time as Lafita rose to head home Jaime Gavilan’s cross to secure a vital point for Getafe.
“We have committed errors that are unbecoming of the professionals we are,” Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets told Canal Plus.
“There are two games remaining and we will try to play them with honour because the league is practically lost. We hope that next season will be different.”
A video tribute was played along with a minute’s silence to mark the death of former Barca coach Tito Vilanova before kick-off in the Catalans’ first home game since he passed away at the age of 45 on April 25.
Possibly affected by that emotional start to the game, the hosts began slowly but went in front with their first clear opening on 23 minutes when Messi swept home Dani Alves’s low cross to register his 41st goal of the season.
Pedro Rodriguez should then have made it 2-0 when he raced onto a wonderful through ball from Messi, but Getafe keeper Julio Cesar did well to narrow the angle and turn the Spanish international’s effort behind.
Instead, Getafe were level in controversial circumstances eight minutes before half-time when Lafita controlled Pablo Sarabia’s looping free-kick before firing low into the far corner.
The goal was initially ruled out by the assistant referee for an infringement by Lafita, but referee Jose Antonio Teixeira Vitienes overruled his colleague and allowed the goal to stand.
Barca could still have been back in front before half-time had Sanchez chosen to shoot rather than square the ball to Messi when well-placed inside the area.
However, Gerardo Martino’s men upped the tempo of their game at the start of the second period and Cesar did well to parry a thunderous volley from Messi three minutes after the restart.
Sanchez then struck the bar as the ball looped up off the Chilean’s chest before Pedro forced another good save from Cesar.
Barca did finally go back in front midway through the second-half as substitute Cesc Fabregas had an instant impact when his low cross fell perfectly for Sanchez to rifle home his 20th goal of the season.
The home side should have added to their lead in the closing stages as Alves somehow headed wide Messi’s pinpoint cross from close range before the Argentine was at fault himself when his attempted lob over Cesar dropped onto the roof of the net.
They were nearly made to pay nine minutes from time when a slick Getafe counter-attack ended with Sarabia’s fierce volley being brilliantly held on the line by Jose Manuel Pinto.
However, there was nothing the keeper could do to prevent Lafita powering home his second of the afternoon in stoppage time to move Getafe three points clear of the relegation zone.