MADRID (AFP) – 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.
“The draw isn’t a great result, but the side came into the game with a positive dynamic and we have to carry on that way. There’s still a long way to go in the league, but admittedly it’s a step backwards,” said Barcelona captain Xavi Hernandez.
“It is a game we can normally get a result in, but we couldn’t make the breakthrough. Defensively they were really strong, we had four chances and couldn’t take any of them.”
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,
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.
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 Lafita’s cross then struck Dani Alves on the arm. 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 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 Xavi volleying just wide and Messi heading over when well positioned.
Meanwhile 10-man Valencia moved to within a point of fourth following a comfortable 3-0 home victory over Rayo Vallecano.
Los Che produced a stunning opening period, and took the lead after 12 minutes as Sofiane Feghouli nodded in at the near post.
The Algerian then added a second from close range before Pablo Piatti produced a stunning turn of pace to break through the heart of the visitors’ defence to add a third ten minutes from the break.
Despite the fact Andre Gomes saw red after catching Jozabed Sanchez with a flailing elbow 20 minutes from time, the damage had already been done.
Victory means Valencia now have 28 points, while Rayo remain in 11th.