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Barca put champagne on ice after Herrera leveller and Real victory delay title party

BARCELONA must wait at least another week to wrap up the La Liga title after conceding a late goal to draw 2-2 at Athletic Bilbao, before second-placed Real Madrid won 2-1 at city rivals Atletico.

Victory for Barca at the San Mames and defeat for Real in the Madrid derby at the Calderon would have given the leaders an unassailable 16-point advantage with five matches left.

Real's comeback win meant Barca's lead was cut to 11 points and they also pulled six points clear of Atletico, who are third and almost assured of a Champions League place for next season.

Barca must wait until after their likely elimination from Europe's elite club competition at home to Bayern Munich on Wednesday for another chance to secure a fourth Spanish crown in five years.

"We are leaving with a bitter taste in our mouths, but feeling satisfied with the job done," Barca forward Alexis Sanchez, who netted his side's second goal, said.

With an eye on the Champions League semi-final second leg, when Barca need to overturn a 4-0 deficit against the Germans, coach Tito Vilanova initially left league top scorer Lionel Messi and playmaker Andres Iniesta on the bench, but the cavalry had to be called for after Markel Susaeta's opener.

Messi equalised after a mazy run, before setting up Alexis to put the champions elect in front. But Ander Herrera's low shot meant the wait for the league must go on.

Real came from behind to beat their bitter rivals Atletico, who have now not beaten their neighbours in 23 meetings.

Radamel Falcao headed his team into the lead, but Angel Di Maria levelled before sealing the win.

In Italy, a spectacular late strike from Arturo Vidal set up a 2-0 win for Juventus in Torino yesterday, leaving them on the brink of retaining their Serie A title after a seventh successive league win.

Vidal hooked in from 25 metres and Claudio Marchisio added another goal in stoppage time for leaders Juventus, who stayed 11 points clear of Napoli with four matches to play and can wrap up the title at home to Palermo next week.

In Germany, champions Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both won ahead of their second-leg meetings with the Spanish giants this week in the Champions League.

Xherdan Shaqiri scored an understrength Munich's goal in a 1-0 win over Freiburg, while Dortmund also rested key men like Robert Lewandowski, but goals from Nuri Sahin and Jakub Blaszcykowski sealed a 2-1 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Irish Independent