Sports

Barca held to goalless stalemate at rainy Getafe

MADRID: Barcelona lost ground on title rivals Real Madrid with an uninspired performance in a 0-0 draw at rain-lashed Getafe on Saturday that left them four points behind the La Liga leaders.

Real jetted off to the Club World Cup in Morocco after a 4-1 win at Almeria on Friday extended their Spanish record winning streak to 20 matches in all competitions.

They have 39 points from 15 matches and will top the table over the two-week Christmas break for a 34th time.

Second-placed Barcelona, missing injured Brazil captain Neymar from their forward line, needed a win to trim the gap back to two points but struggled against some gritty Getafe defending at the Coliseum in the Madrid suburbs.

Neymar’s partner in attack Lionel Messi was unable to convert the few chances that came his way and add to his 13 La Liga goals this season, although he came close when he curled a 52nd-minute free kick against the bar.

The Argentina captain has hit the frame of the goal eight times in Spain’s top flight this term, twice as many as the next most frequent, Real’s Karim Benzema.

Luis Suarez had another frustrating night and has still not opened his account in La Liga in seven appearances since his ban for biting an opponent at the World Cup expired at the end of October.

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo had little to do apart from leaping superbly to his left to palm a shot from Getafe forward Angel Lafita around the post in the 33rd minute.

BACKWARDS STEP

“There is a long way to go still but it’s a step backwards,” Barca playmaker Xavi told Spanish television.

“It was the kind of game we usually cope with but if we don’t break the deadlock things get tricky,” added the former Spain midfielder.

“We have a lot of good goalscorers up front but today the ball didn’t want to go in.”

Real have won the La Liga title nine of the last 11 times they have led going into the New Year.

Champions Atletico Madrid, sitting in third, can draw level with Barca on 35 points with a home win over Villarreal on Sunday.

Valencia, in fifth, ended a run of two defeats and two draws when they beat Rayo Vallecano 3-0 at the Mestalla despite having midfielder Andre Gomes sent off with around 20 minutes left when he earned a second booking.

Victory for the club recently taken over by Singapore billionaire Peter Lim closed the gap with fourth-placed Sevilla, who host Eibar on Sunday, to one point.

“Three fundamental points to help us towards our objective,” Valencia coach Nuno said at a news conference. “Our bad run is over.”

Malaga climbed above Villarreal into sixth, a point behind Valencia and two adrift of Sevilla, when they beat eighth-placed Celta Vigo 1-0 at the Rosaleda.

Cordoba drew 0-0 at home to fellow strugglers Levante in Saturday’s other game. (Reuters)

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