Real Sociedad ends five-game winless streak by beating Alaves
MADRID: Barcelona's Andres Iniesta, centre, battles for the ball with
Atletico Madrid's Juanfran, left, and Angel Correa during a Spanish
La Liga soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. - AP
MADRID: Atletico Madrid was able to contain Lionel Messi and yet still couldn't top Barcelona in the Spanish league on Saturday. Atletico was a few minutes away from ending a seven-year winless streak against Barcelona in the league until Luis Suarez produced an 82nd-minute equalizer for 1-1.
Suarez had been ineffective at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium before his late header that extended Barcelona's unbeaten streak against Atletico to 15 league matches.
Atletico did a decent job stopping Messi after his starring role to put Argentina in the World Cup. He has 14 goals in 12 matches with Barcelona but was unable to score at the Metropolitano. His best chance was a second-half free kick that hit the post.
The playmaker, coming off a long trip from Ecuador for Argentina's qualifier, had 27 goals in 34 matches against Atletico in all competitions. "He certainly wasn't as tired as most people thought he would be because he played a tremendous match," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said of Messi. "We defended well, just couldn't put the game away on the counterattacks."
The result ended Barcelona's perfect league record and cut the club's lead to five points over Real Madrid, which defeated Getafe 2-1 with a late winner by Cristiano Ronaldo. Atletico stayed in third place, six points behind Barcelona, which won its first seven league matches. Sevilla dropped to fourth place, also six points off the lead, after losing at Athletic Bilbao 1-0.
Barcelona, which had outscored opponents 23-2, controlled possession but it was Atletico which was able to create the most significant opportunities. Antoine Griezmann had two clear chances denied by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andreter Stegen early.
Saul Niguez gave the hosts the lead with a well-placed shot from outside the area in the first half. Suarez jumped between Atletico defenders to head in a cross by substitute Sergi Roberto. "Good job from all the team in a complicated game," Suarez said.
Two weeks after playing behind closed doors to protest the Spanish government's moves to halt Catalonia's independence referendum, Barcelona was met with Spanish flags, and outspoken defender Gerard Pique was loudly jeered by the local fans.
Athletic edged Sevilla in Bilbao to snap a six-game winless streak in all competitions. Mikel Vesga scored the winner just before halftime at San Mames Stadium, where Sevilla lost for an eighth straight time.
RECOVERING REAL SOCIEDAD
Real Sociedad ended its five-game winless streak by beating Alaves with goals by Mikel Oyarzabal in the 77th and Aritz Elustondo in the 81st. Alaves, second-to-last in the standings, was coming off its first win of the season at Levante. - AP