Fireworks Fail To Spark; Atletico, Barca In Goalless Draw
By Football News
A goalless draw between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday breathed life back into Real Madrid's La Liga title bid.
The clash between the top two in the Spanish capital failed to live up to its heavyweight billing, and Real can now close to within three points of both sides if they win at Espanyol on Sunday.
A point apiece keeps Barcelona on top of the table, ahead of Atletico on goal difference after a match of few chances, with the best falling to Diego Costa.
The Atletico striker, who has scored 19 league goals this season, turned wide from close range after a corner made its way to the back post, while Lionel Messi had a series of half-chances for Barca after coming on as a half-time substitute.
And while neither side lost ground on each other, they will nervously watch Carlo Ancelotti's men on Sunday and hope for a surprise result.
Despite scoring twice on his return from a hamstring injury in Wednesday's Copa del Rey win over Getafe, Messi had to start from the bench, as did Neymar, while midfielder Raul Garcia dropped to Atletico's bench in spite of his 12th goal for the season during midweek.
The hosts made an excellent start, pressing Barcelona at every opportunity, and a delightful Arda Turan run, which saw him beat Jordi Alba and get to the byline, led to his cross being inadvertently turned just over the crossbar by Gerard Pique in the fourth minute.
Diego Costa forced a flying save from Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes less than 60 seconds later, but the game settled down after and chances were few and far between.
Pedro had Barca's first meaningful shot in the 18th minute, although Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois comfortably saved it, and a corner at the other end should have been forced in by Costa, after Koke's delivery was flicked on, but the striker shot wide under pressure at the far post.
Pedro and Pique failed to convert half-chances before the break, but the introduction of Messi at half-time, in place of Andres Iniesta, failed to spark the visitors.
Valdes made a stunning save to deny Koke from close range, but the goal would not have stood for offside, before Costa shot wide just before the hour-mark.
The impressive Turan sparked the counter-attack, winning the ball and releasing Costa, who missed the target with his left-foot effort from outside the area.
Messi nodded a good Fabregas ball wide in the 69th minute, while Turan volleyed straight at Valdes on the turn with 11 minutes left.
Again Messi was Barcelona's main threat, and his powerful effort was well-saved by Courtois shortly after, but in the end, both sides had to settle for a draw.