The Barcelona manager, Ronald Koeman, has said winning the title this season will be “very complicated” after his team dropped more points in a 1-1 home draw with Eibar. Barça suffered in the absence of the injured Lionel Messi, as Martin Braithwaite missed a penalty for the hosts.
“If I’m realistic, the title is very complicated,” Koeman said after the result left Barça sixth in the table, seven behind league leaders Atlético Madrid who have two games in hand. “Nothing is impossible, but you have to recognise the distance. Atlético seem to me to be very good, very strong. They don’t concede many goals.”
Eibar took a shock lead in the 57th minute when striker Kike García pounced on a glaring defensive error from young Barça defender Ronald Araújo. Substitute Ousmane Dembélé got the equaliser 10 minutes later, but the hosts could not find a winner.
“We deserved to win,” Koeman said. “We did what we had to do. They only shot on goal once. We created chances, but we didn’t score the penalty and then made a mistake in defence. We did enough to win. This is happening many times.”
Messi flew back from Argentina earlier on Tuesday but had to watch from the stands at Camp Nou as he is still recovering from an ankle problem. While his side played well in spells without him, they lacked the cutting edge he so often provides.
The most glaring example came just eight minutes in, when the VAR awarded Barça a penalty for a foul on Araújo. Braithwaite stepped up in Messi’s absence but fired wide. The Danish forward thought he had atoned with a goal 20 minutes later, but that was disallowed for offside.
The Catalans dominated the first half but wasted chances in front of goal and were punished in the second half after a lapse of concentration from Araújo. The Uruguayan centre-back was mugged near the halfway line by Kike, who raced towards goal and kept his cool to beat keeper Marc-André ter Stegen.
Dembélé levelled 10 minutes later, firing into the far corner with a first-time finish after a cut-back from Junior Firpo to complete an excellent team move. Braithwaite missed the best chance for either side to win the match, the ball bouncing off his chest on the rebound and squirming wide.
“We lacked Leo, who makes a difference,” Koeman concluded. “It cannot be said that Barca play better without Messi. He is on another level. In general we played a good game, but individual mistakes have cost us points.”
Elsewhere, Sevilla beat Villarreal 2-0 at home to climb above into fourth place. Lucas Ocampos’s early penalty put Julen Lopetegui’s side ahead, with Youssef En-Nesyri’s second-half goal securing the three points. Levante eased their relegation fears with a dramatic 4-3 home win over Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis.