Barca’s fine line be­tween a win and a draw

Cham­pi­ons de­nied clear goal as En­rique’s men stum­ble again

The National - News - Sport - - FOOTBALL -

MADRID // Barcelona’s Primera Liga ti­tle chal­lenge suf­fered a huge blow as the Span­ish cham­pi­ons were con­tro­ver­sially held 1-1 at Real Betis de­spite Luis Suarez’s last-minute equaliser.

Aleix Ale­gria gave Betis the lead their dom­i­nance de­served 15 min­utes from time when he bun­dled home from close range af­ter Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen flapped at a cor­ner.

How­ever, Barca were rightly in­fu­ri­ated sec­onds later as the ball clearly crossed the Betis goalline, but no goal was given by ref­eree Ale­jan­dro Jose Her­nan­dez.

Suarez did at least res­cue a point in the dy­ing sec­onds, though, as he slot­ted home Lionel Messi’s through ball for his 21st goal of the sea­son.

“We have to help the ref­er­ees,” Barca man­ager Luis En­rique told beIN Sports Spain. “The tech­nol­ogy can help them. I say that for all sit­u­a­tions not just ones that go for me, but against me too.”

Suarez was less un­der­stand­ing as he claimed the ball “was a me­tre over the line”.

Ul­ti­mately En­rique paid the price for again heav­ily ro­tat­ing his side with Wed­nes­day’s Copa del Rey semi-fi­nal, first leg at Atletico Madrid in mind.

“The feel­ing I have is that we have won one point,” he said.

En­rique made six changes in all, in­clud­ing three of the back four and Betis took ad­van­tage with a bright start.

Ter Ste­gen was forced into saves from Ruben Cas­tro and Dani Ce­bal­los early on. How­ever, Barca ar­guably had the best chance of the first half when An­to­nio Adan flew off his line to deny Ney­mar from an­other scin­til­lat­ing Messi pass.

Ce­bal­los saw a dip­ping lon­grange ef­fort come back off the bar be­fore Cas­tro struck the post with Ter Ste­gen beaten at his near post.

The Ger­man goal­keeper had a mo­ment to for­get for the open­ing goal as he failed to get a good con­nec­tion on an at­tempted punch un­der pres­sure from two Betis play­ers and the ball fell kindly for Ale­gria to tap home.

Con­ced­ing awoke Barca from their slum­ber and they were dou­bly de­nied by Her­nan­dez sec­onds later as Ney­mar went down in­side the area and the ball ric­o­cheted to­wards the Betis goal off Riza Dur­misi.

Re­plays showed the ball clearly went over the line be­fore Alissa Mandi cleared, but Primera Liga’s re­fusal to im­ple­ment goalline tech­nol­ogy due to pric­ing fears cost Barca as no goal was given. An­other goal-line clear­ance pre­vented Aleix Vi­dal’s de­flected cross lev­el­ling for Barca mo­ments later.

Betis should have sealed the three points when Cas­tro broke clear on goal eight min­utes from time, but Ter Ste­gen re­deemed him­self with a fine save.

That miss proved cru­cial as Messi slipped a pass through for Suarez to dis­patch the ball into the far cor­ner.

Miguel More­natti / AP Photo

Luis Suarez’s late equaliser saved a point for Barcelona against Real Betis at Ben­ito Vil­la­marin Sta­dium.

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