Barcelona held 1-1 at 10-man Alavés after goalkeeper gaffe

VITORIA, SPAIN (AP) – Neto’s goalkeeping gaffe condemned Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Alavés on Saturday as Ronald Koeman’s team dropped points for a fourth straight round in the Spanish league.

Neto gifted Alavés its goal in the 31st minute when he let Luis Rioja poke the ball from his feet and roll it home.

Antoine Griezmann got his first goal of the season as Barcelona equalised in the 63rd after the hosts lost Jota Peleteiro to a second booking.

Barcelona surged forward looking for a winner, but Alavés‘ keeper Fernando Pacheco kept out shots from Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati and Miralem Pjanic to salvage the point.

Barcelona’s latest slip in the domestic competition comes three days after it dominated Juventus in a 2-0 win in Turin in the Champions League.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi battles for the ball with Alaves’ Jose Peleteiro ‘Jota’, and Florian Lejeune during the Spanish La Liga football match between Alaves and Barcelona at Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria, Spain. PHOTOS: AP
Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann celebrates with teammate Sergi Roberto after scoring his side’s first goal

After winning the first two games of the league season, Barcelona has drawn two and lost two. That left Barcelona eight points behind leader Real Madrid with a game in hand.

Koeman admitted to concerns about the team he is rebuilding. He took over after Barcelona ended last season without a title under Quique Setién.

“It is not normal that we only have earned two of the last 12 possible points,” Koeman said. “You cannot complain about our attitude, but you can complain about our results. This is not the first time we have converted so few of our chances.”

Ansu Fati and Griezmann had already wasted opportunities when Neto’s feet let him down

Neto was painfully slow in getting rid of a pass from Gerard Pique that the Barcelona goalkeeper had failed to control. Instead of clearing the ball out of his area, Neto turned to try and dribble the onrushing Rioja, who stripped it from his feet and scored in the open goal.

“I was near (Neto) and tried to close off the only passing option he had, which was to Pique. And then he was unlucky,” Rioja said.

With the hosts clogging up the area and aggressively marking Messi, Barcelona failed to threaten Pacheco before halftime.

That changed after Koeman made three changes on the restart, sending on Pedro “Pedri” González, Miralem Pjanic, and Francisco Trincão for Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Busquets, and Clement Lenglet.

Barcelona immediately increased the pace of its passing combinations and made the defence scramble to resist its attacks inside the box.

That defence finally cracked when Jota was sent off after picking up a second yellow card for a high kick that almost hit Pique in the face.

Griezmann scored on the next attack when Fati pressured Tomas Piña into an errant pass that the France forward chipped over Pacheco.

Koeman sent on Sergiño Dest and Martin Brathwaite to join the action in the Alavés area. The goal, however, remained elusive despite a barrage of corner kicks and crosses by the visitors.

“We are upset, we are angry. We wanted to take the three points today,” Griezmann said. “We are not finishing off our scoring opportunities, and I am the first who needs to be more clinical. I was missing my chances and the team needs my goals. We have to improve, and working hard and staying patient is the way.”