Football

Published: Sunday May 4, 2014 MYT 2:13:48 AM
Updated: Sunday May 4, 2014 MYT 2:13:48 AM

Barca's last major title chance slipping away

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona were left facing their first season without any major silverware in six years after they conceded in the second minute of added time in a tepid 2-2 La Liga draw at home to lowly Getafe on Saturday.

Barca's feeble showing means Atletico Madrid can stretch their advantage at the top to six points with two games left, including a visit to the Nou Camp on the final day of the season, with a win at Levante on Sunday.

Real Madrid are three points behind Barca in third and well placed to overhaul their arch rivals as they have Sunday's match at home to Valencia and Wednesday's trip to struggling Real Valladolid in hand.

Barca captain Xavi conceded that a fifth La Liga title in six years was next to impossible for the Catalan giants and had some harsh criticism for himself and his team mates.

"It will take a miracle to win the league now and we are really down," the Spain playmaker told reporters. "We have not had a good season and we were not competitive in many areas.

"We have to forget about this season and take a good look at ourselves. We have to improve a lot of things."

At the start of April Barca were well placed to repeat their record treble of La Liga, Champions League and King's Cup from 2008-09 but are now likely to end the campaign with nothing more than the season-opening Spanish Super Cup.

They were dumped out of Europe's elite club competition by Atletico last month and a week later Real beat them 2-1 in the final of the King's Cup.

The defeats capped a miserable season that also included the resignation of president Sandro Rosell over alleged irregularities in the signing of Brazil forward Neymar and the death of former coach Tito Vilanova from throat cancer.

Failure to win a major title will increase the pressure on Gerardo Martino in his first season in charge after succeeding Vilanova and there has been widespread speculation he will leave at the end of the campaign halfway through a two-year contract.

SURPRISE EQUALISERS

The Barca players and fans paid a moving tribute to Vilanova before kickoff on Saturday and the match initially appeared to be going according to plan.

Lionel Messi, who played under Vilanova as a teenager in the club's academy, made it 1-0 in the 23rd minute when he stroked a Dani Alves centre high into the net. It was the Argentina forward's 28th goal of an injury-disrupted campaign, two fewer than La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo of Real and one more than Atletico forward Diego Costa. Getafe snatched the first of two surprise equalisers eight minutes before the break when Angel Lafita chested the ball down in the area and fired low past goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto. Barcelona continued to dominate after halftime without creating many clear chances, although Messi forced a fine save from Julio Cesar and the ball ricocheted off Alexis Sanchez on to the bar. The introduction of Barca's Spain playmaker Cesc Fabregas just after the hour gave them some extra zip and it was his cross that eventually found its way to Alexis in the 67th and the Chile forward fired a first-time effort into the corner.

Barca were again guilty of failing to turn dominance into the goals that would have killed off the game and Jaime Gavilan found space on the left in the 92nd minute and crossed for Lafita to head superbly past Pinto.

BARCA MISTAKES

"We made mistakes that players who play in La Liga should not be making," Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets told Spanish television.

"They are scoring goals against us that we should not be conceding.

"It’s not the fault of the defence but of the whole team as we defend together just as we attack together.

"There are two games left and we will try to play them with as much honour as possible because we are playing in the world’s best club.

"This year we are not going to win any titles and I hope it serves as a lesson for the future."

Despite Saturday's fine effort, Getafe, who have won two of 21 matches since the end of November, remain in serious danger, three points above the relegation places.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer and Josh Reich)

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