Sunday 17 December 2017

Alves error ends Barca's winning streak in shock defeat

Dani Alves of FC Barcelona
Dani Alves of FC Barcelona

Barcelona's 11-match winning streak came to an end on Saturday when Malaga pounced on a bad mistake by defender Dani Alves to score a shock 1-0 win that cost the Catalans top spot in La Liga.

Elsewhere, Antoine Griezmann struck twice as Atletico Madrid produced a devastating performance to sweep aside Almeria 3-0 ahead of their Champions League clash with Bayern Leverkusen.

The stage was left clear for a Barca victory to take them two points ahead of Real Madrid, but they were unable to reproduce the slick football that has seen them terrorise opponents.

"In football, we know anything can happen," said defender Gerard Pique. "You are on a good run and then suddenly you lose.

"We are playing well, and just because we have lost one game, (that) doesn't mean that everything is now bad."

Seventh-placed Malaga grabbed the only goal when Alves tried to nonchalantly side-foot a back-pass, but Juanmi nipped in and rounded keeper Claudio Bravo before slotting the ball into an empty net after seven minutes.

Lionel Messi had scored 12 goals in the previous eight games, but he could not provide a spark as Barca dominated possession without finding a way past a steadfast Malaga defence.

"It wasn't the best game, not only from Leo but all the team," said midfielder Sergio Busquets. "We needed to create more chances, but it wasn't possible."

Disciplined

Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were in Barca's starting line-up as coach Luis Enrique decided against resting his first-choice forwards ahead of the midweek trip to Manchester City in the Champions League last 16.

However, the trio could make little impact against a disciplined Malaga side.

In Germany, Atletico's opponents Bayer Leverkusen secured a 2-2 home draw against Augsburg, with the visitors' Marwin Hitz becoming the third goalkeeper in Bundesliga history to score from open play as he produced a stoppage-time equaliser.

Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben struck twice each as champions Bayern Munich annihilated promoted Paderborn 6-0 on Saturday to open an 11-point lead at the top.

In other European news, police officers arrested 16 supporters suspected of clashing in the early hours on Saturday following Monaco's 1-0 win at Nice in the French League. Monaco are set to face Arsenal in their European tie on Wednesday night.

In Italy, meanwhile, Juventus beat Atalanta 2-1 on Friday before their tomorrow's clash against Borussia Dortmond.

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