Barcelona slip up again as Real close the gap

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

Sitting twelve points clear by the end of December, Barcelona looked to have the title wrapped up – and in some fashion. However their lead at the top of La Liga has been cut from 12 points to a mere four.

Their defeat yesterday away to Atletico Madrid is the second defeat in consecutive games. They have only managed to collect a single point from their last three games.

Samuel Eto’o managed to rescue a point against Real Betis three weeks ago with a late equaliser. A minor blip many thought. However it is now becoming something of a rut.

The following week, Espanyol traveled to the Nou Camp. Espanyol were rooted to the bottom of the table. A massive 42 points separated the sides. Keita’s sending off in the 38th minute arguably changed the game.

As the Barcelona players trudged into the changing rooms at half time, Real Madrid were thrashing the very team that had held Barcelona the week before, Real Betis 6-1.

Barcelona went on to lose 2-1 to Espanyol. Juande Ramos and Madrid cut the deficit down to seven points and all of a sudden the title race was alive again.

Barcelona faced a difficult task last night travelling to Atletico Madrid. They got off to a good start with a majestic strike from Henry. On the 30th minute, Messi doubled their lead, with a weaving run through the Atletico defense and slotting the ball into the right hand corner.

But just two minutes later, ex-Manchester United striker Diego Forlan pulled one back with a piledriver from outside the box. After the break Sergio Aguero capitalised on hesitancy in defence by Rafael Marquez, to level the scores at 2-2.

However Barcelona still had the opportunity to clain all three points when Henry finished off a tidy move by the Catalans with only 15 minutes to go. But Barça failed to hold on.

Subsitute Florent Sinama Pongolle was brought down in the box by Thierry Henry, allowing Forlan to bag his second goal of the night from the penalty spot.

And the drama wasn’t over. Eto’o attacked and selfishly tried a shot when he should have squared the ball to the unmarked Messi or Henry. Aguero countered for Atletico, and after a fortunate deflection off Carlos Puyol, rifled the ball into the net.

This all means that ‘Los Merengues’ are now four points behind their Catalan rivals. Madrid will foster the hope that they can retain their title. It all makes for an exciting finish to the season in Spain. A finish that seemed unimaginable just four weeks ago.

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