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Sunday 17 December 2017

Sloppy Barcelona slip from top spot

Pete Jenson

Euro Zone

IT was like watching royalty stumble – the elegance with which Barcelona are associated made their undignified draw in Almeria all the more unsightly.

First came coach Pep Guardiola’s red card for arguing with a linesman about a penalty not given, then Carlos Puyol put through his own goal trying to clear a cross and finally Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off for pushing in the penalty area – an unmerited punishment but one which rules him out of this week’s visit of Valencia.

The fact that Barcelona salvaged a point was due to Lionel Messi. The Argentine scored direct from a free-kick to cancel out Cisma’s first-half header but he needed to score again on the hour after Puyol’s own goal. Barcelona were on the plane home from Almeria when Rafael van der Vaart’s injury-time goal ensured three points for Real

Madrid from a 3-2 win over Seville. Barca’s unbecoming slip-up leaves Real top of La Liga for the first time in 106 days. Real looked to have wasted the opportunity to go top as two defensive errors at the start of each half allowed Sevilla to build a 2-0 lead with only 30 minutes to go.

Madrid staged a stunning recovery though, drawing level through goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos before substitute Van der Vaart stabbed in the winner two minutes into injury-time.

Beckham sweats

David Beckham played just 19 minutes for Milan on Saturday as they drew another Serie A blank ahead of their visit to Old Trafford. Their goalless draw against Roma leaves them with only slim hopes of catching leaders Internazionale and Beckham’s minimal participation leaves him sweating on a late decision by coach Leonardo that will depend largely on the fitness of Alexandre Pato.

Inter stretched their lead over Milan to four points after a dour goalless draw at home to Genoa. Jose Mourinho’s men were short on ideas and couldn’t crack the visitors’ organised defence.

Problems for Porto

Porto warmed up for their clash with Arsenal tomorrow with more disappointment, needing two late goals to scrape a 2-2 home draw against relegation battlers Olhanense.

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