Madrid (AFP) – A disallowed Luis Suarez goal summed up a frustrating afternoon for Barcelona as the leaders of La Liga dropped points for the second week running after a 0-0 stalemate with Getafe on Sunday.
After needing a late equaliser to grab a point in the Catalan derby at Espanyol last weekend, Barca could not break down a well-organised Getafe side, who showed why they have the third-best defensive record in the league.
In irresistible form in front of goal in 2018, Suarez had the ball in the net just before half-time with a great finish from a Lionel Messi free-kick, but the home celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.
The Uruguayan striker then saw his header kept out by a brilliant Vicente Guaita save as the match moved into stoppage time, with Barca failing to score at home in La Liga for the first time since November 2016.
Ernesto Valverde’s side remain unbeaten in La Liga after 23 games, extending their longest run without losing from the start of a campaign.
However, they are now only seven points clear at the summit from Atletico Madrid, who won 1-0 at Malaga on Saturday with an early Antoine Griezmann goal. The Rojiblancos visit the Camp Nou in three weeks.
“We don’t like to draw at home, but that’s football. Our opponents defended really well and we were unable to score,” Valverde told beIN Sports.
“Maybe we lacked a bit of spark, that’s possible. It is strange for us not to score here at our stadium.”
With Samuel Umtiti banned, Thomas Vermaelen not fit and Gerard Pique only on the bench, Valverde handed a first start to January signing Yerry Mina and partnered him in central defence with Lucas Digne.
That pair were rarely overly troubled, but at the other end Valverde’s decision to bring both Paco Alcacer and Philippe Coutinho into the line-up did not have the desired impact.
They both lasted just over an hour, with Coutinho forcing a fine save from Guaita from a curling strike in the 58th minute.
Meanwhile, Ousmane Dembele came on in the second half for his first appearance since his latest spell on the sidelines, but the young France forward was also incapable of breaking down the Getafe back line.
Former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini came on towards the end to make his debut for Getafe, who are 10th.
– Rico Sevilla’s hero –
Real Madrid moved back up to third with a comprehensive 5-2 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick for the first time this season.
However, they are still 17 points adrift of Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand.
Valencia, who have lost their last six games in all competitions, have the chance to move back above Madrid if they can win at home to Levante later on Sunday (1945 GMT).
Earlier, Sergio Rico was the hero for Sevilla with a penalty save and several key interventions as his side boosted their European hopes with a 1-0 win over Girona.
The only goal of the game at a sunny Sanchez Pizjuan was scored just over 30 seconds into the second half, with Pablo Sarabia making sure the ball went in after a Joaquin Correa effort was stopped on the line.
But, before that, Rico had intervened to prevent the home side going behind just prior to the interval, diving to his right to save an Aday Benitez penalty awarded for a handball by Luis Muriel.
Sevilla, who will face Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final in April and host Manchester United in the Champions League on February 21, are sixth in La Liga.