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Atletico hold Barcelona despite Messi's 700th goal

Saul Niguez

Bengaluru, July 1: A late penalty from Saul Niguez cancelled out Lionel Messi's 700th career goal as Barcelona's hopes of defending the La Liga crown received a further jolt after they were held 2-2 at home by a gritty Atletico Madrid, thereby conceding more ground to arch-rivals Real Madrid.

The draw meant the Catalans stayed second in the La Liga standings with 70 points.

Leaders Real Madrid, who have 71, will go four points clear at the top with five games left if they beat Getafe at home on Thursday (July 2).

Results | Points Table | Fixtures

Barceloa went ahead at an empty Camp Nou in the 11th minute when Atletico striker Diego Costa knocked Messi's delivery from a corner into his own net.

Saul levelled soon after from the spot after the referee ordered a re-take when Costa's initial penalty was saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen who had strayed from his line.

Barcelona then earned a penalty soon after the interval which Argentinian Messi coolly converted for a remarkable 700th strike for club and country, only for Saul to strike again from the spot in the 62nd to earn a share of the points.

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"It's a real shame and the league title is looking much harder for us with each game," said Barcelona coach Quique Setien, whose side have drawn three of their six games since the campaign resumed after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced stoppage.

The Catalans desperately needed to win after twice throwing away the lead to draw 2-2 with Celta Vigo but history repeated itself as Setien's side failed to sparkle against a determined Atletico who are unbeaten since the season resumed.

As well as defending with their usual steel, Diego Simeone's side caused Barcelona plenty of problems down the wings due to the pace of Yannick Carrasco and their man-of-the-moment Marcos Llorente, who is enjoying a new lease of life as a forward.

Belgian winger Carrasco won both penalties for Atletico, out-foxing Arturo Vidal in the first half and then proving too quick for Nelson Semedo.

Saul had sent Ter Stegen the wrong way to score his first equaliser but the German guessed the right way in their second duel from the spot. The ball, however, squirmed through his hands and crept in off post.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published: Wednesday, July 1, 2020, 9:31 [IST]
Other articles published on Jul 1, 2020
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