La Liga Result & Match Report
Ikechuckwu Uche's late headed equaliser for Almeria earned his side a 2-2 draw that dealt a bitter blow to 10-man Barcelona's Spanish league title aspirations on Sunday. Barcelona took the lead twice in the match but let themselves down with some poor defending.The Catalans has an opportunity to close the gap on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga to just five points, and they blew it...
Frank Rijkaard fielded an unfamiliar Barcelona line up with Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Deco, Yaya Toure and Rafa Marquez all missing through injury and Gianluca Zambrotta suspended. However, the evening started well for the Catalans who went in to the match buoyed by the news that their rivals, Real Madrid, had lost their match against Deportivo.
Barcelona took the lead through Bojan Krkic after just 16 minutes. Andres Iniesta started the match in attack and was the architect of the goal, firing a low angled drive towards the far post, which Almeria goalkeeper Diego Alves could only parry into the path of the unmarked Bojan Krkic,
The visiting side had dominated most of the possession in the early stages of the match and their lead was deserved.
However,newly promoted Almeria are certainly no pushover, particularly at home. They responded positively and displayed the kind of grit and determination that has already seen them defeat Real Madrid this season, and it was not long before the home side equalised just after the half-hour mark through a Ruben Pulido header. The former Getafe defender found himself completely unmarked in the Barcelona box and directed Corona's corner kick past Valdes with ease.
The second half began with both sides creating chances, but it was the visiting side who took the lead once again. Samuel Eto'o, playing his 100th league match for Barcelona, grabbed his 72nd goal for the club when he latched on to a low cross from Thierry Henry after 56 minutes.
Henry did well out on the left to break in to the Almeria penalty area and cut the ball back for Eto'o to stroke home at the far post from five yards out. Henry, coming off the bench to replace Edmilson, had only been on the pitch for five minutes and he was clearly intent upon making a positive impact after what has been a difficult week for the Frenchman.
Just as it looked as if this was going to be Barcelona's evening they found themselves reduced to 10 men after Gabi Milito picked up his second yellow card of the night for a foul on the edge of the Barcelona area. Almeria, sensing that they had been handed a lifeline, upped the tempo and tried to make their numerical advantage count as they pushed hard for the equaliser.
At the point where Barcelona fans sensed that their side might hang on for a vital win, they let themselves down with some dreadful marking yet again: this time allowing Uche to get between Eric Abidal and Henry to head an equaliser from a corner on 85 minutes.
After losing their last two La Liga matches, Barcelona should consider themselves fortunate that they went in to tonight's match with even the slightest chance of catching up with Real Madrid. However, with the gap currently at seven points and with just 10 Primera Liga games remaining, FC Barcelona cannot afford to spurn any more chances that come their way.
Almería: Diego Alves; López Rekarte, Pulido (Iriney, 80'), Carlos García, Mané; Juanito, Felipe Melo, Juanma Ortiz (Ortiz, 63'), Crusat (K. Uche, 80'), Corona and Negredo.
FC Barcelona: Valdés; Puyol, Milito, Thuram, Abidal; Xavi, Edmílson (Henry, 53'), Gudjohnsen (Víctor Sánchez, 90'); Iniesta, Eto'o and Bojan (Sylvinho, 74').
Yellow Cards for Puyol (29'); Milito (57' Y 71'); Iniesta (59'); Gudjohnsen (67'), Red Card for Milito (71') for second bookable offence.
0-1, Bojan (16')
1-1, Pulido (32')
1-2, Eto'o (56')
2-2, Uche (84')