Without Messi, Barcelona plays draw against Malaga
Barcelona, Spain, Nov 20 (IANS) FC Barcelona, playing without star strikers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, were unable to get anything past Malaga's goalkeeper and had to settle for a goalless draw that leaves them in second place in the La Liga standings.
Luis Enrique's men were hampered offensively without the services of Messi, sidelined with an illness, and the suspended Suarez,reports Efe on saturday.
The Catalans still managed to dominate possession from the outset at Camp Nou here, but several chances squandered by Arda Turan, Rafinha and Gerard Pique prevented them from getting on the scoreboard.
Barca failed to break through Malaga's defence even after defender Diego Llorente was sent off in the 69th minute for a hard challenge on Neymar.
Neymar needed to carry the offensive load in the absence of Messi and Suarez, but the Brazilian star was sluggish after returning from duty with his country's national side.
Playing 11 against 10, Barcelona went all-out for the win in the final minutes of the contest.
But the referee's decision not to award a penalty for an apparent takedown of Pique by Venezuelan defender Mikel Villanueva and a remarkable save by Camaroonian goalkeeper Carlos Kameni of a shot off the foot of Neymar doomed Barcelona's hopes for three points.
Barça had to settle for a scoreless draw even though Malaga was reduced to nine men by the final whistle after midfielder Juankar was sent off in the waning seconds for excessive complaining to the referee.
Barcelona is now just one point behind Real Madrid in the standings, but the Blancos can stretch that advantage to four points with a victory Saturday night over crosstown rival Atletico Madrid.