Spanish League — La LigaSunday, January 12, 2014
Atlético Madrid, Barcelona draw 0-0
Title rivals Barcelona and Atlético Madrid stayed locked together at the top of La Liga after they played out an intense 0-0 draw with few genuine chances at the Calderón.
MADRID — Atlético Madrid and Barcelona showed the battle for the title would be a long, drawn-out affair after the Spanish co-leaders drew 0-0 in their first league meeting of the season yesterday.
Both teams finished the first half of the season tied on 50 points after an exciting, back-and-forth showdown at Vicente Calderón Stadium yielded no winner.
Barcelona was troubled by Atlético pair Diego Costa and Arda Turan throughout, while second-half substitute Lionel Messi enjoyed the visitors’ best chances as the Barcelona forward headed wide before forcing goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into a clutch stop in the 81st.
Neymar also came on in the second half for Barcelona but the Brazil striker made little impact as the teams played out their third straight draw following the summer Spanish Super Cup series.
“It was like a game of chess,” Atlético coach Diego Simeone said. “The game reflected where these two teams are in the standings.”
Atlético will remain encouraged about winning its first title since 1996 and dislodging the Barcelona-Real Madrid monopoly that has been broken only by Deportivo La Coruña and Valencia since. Real Madrid travels to Espanyol today knowing a victory will move it to within three points of the leaders.
The hosts started more brightly as Turan’s short cross along the goal-line was headed just over for the game’s opening chance four minutes in.
Andrés Iniesta hurt his left knee and gave way to Messi to start the second half but it was Diego Costa who continued to prowl Barcelona’s goal only to shoot wide in the 59th.
Messi perhaps showed some rust from a two-month injury layoff when he headed Jordi Alba’s cross wide from the penalty spot at the other end. Alba and Daniel Alves made little impact in attack as the Barcelona fullbacks were cut off by Atlético’s strikers.
Atlético looked set to break through in the 79th but Turan volleyed a looping ball straight at Valdés, moments before Courtois denied Messi’s hard-taken shot from the left.
“I don’t know what will happen between now and the last 19 rounds but I expect Atlético to stay in the fight,” Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said.
Also, Athletic Bilbao maintained its grip on fourth by demolishing Almería 6-1 while Valencia’s season-long slide continued with a 2-1 defeat at Celta Vigo.
Daniel Carrico scored in the last minute as Sevilla rallied to draw 1-1 at Elche.