Barcelona's title hopes are in tatters after Getafe twice came from behind to claim a 2-2 draw Saturday at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi put Barca ahead midway through the first half, only for Angel Lafita to pull Getafe level controversially in the 37th minute. The hosts went ahead a second time through Alexis Sanchez with an assist from substitute Cesc Fabregas, whose introduction reinvigorated Barca's attack in the second half.
Barcelona had multiple chances to seal the victory with a third goal, but Lafita equalised for a second time with a header in stoppage time to claim a point and all but end Barcelona's title challenge.
The draw took Barcelona within three points of leaders Atletico Madrid with two matches left, but Atletico can move six points clear with a win at Levante on Sunday. Getafe, meanwhile, moved onto 36 points, three clear of the relegation places.
"I guess the Liga is over for us now," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets told reporters after the match, per Football Espana. "We should learn from this for the future."
Before the match Barcelona honoured former manager Tito Vilanova, who died on April 25 at age 45, with a moment of silence. The home fans at the Camp Nou paid tribute with a banner with the words "Tito, forever eternal," and Barca's home jerseys bore the same message along the players' chests.
In their previous league match, Barcelona overcame a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 at Villarreal. Veteran midfielder Xavi dedicated the comeback and victory to Vilanova, as per BBC Sport, and as the season comes to a close, Barca must have been hoping to channel some of their grief into their push for the league title.
Barcelona entered Saturday's match four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, meaning Tata Martino's side could hardly afford to drop any more points in the run-in. Barca will host leaders Atletico on the final day of the season, but it's becoming increasingly likely that the title will be out of the Blaugrana's reach by then.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, trail Atletico by six points entering the weekend's matches but hold an extra match in hand. If the Blancos win all their remaining matches, they cannot finish lower than Barcelona.
Regardless, the first order of business for Barcelona on Saturday was winning at home—and Martino's side started well, dominating possession before taking the lead in the 23rd minute. Xavi unlocked Getafe's defence with an angled pass on the right to Dani Alves, who played the ball back into the middle for Messi. With his first touch, Messi powered his shot into the top corner for a 1-0 lead.
Barca nearly had a second goal a few minutes later as Messi set up Pedro for a chance, but Pedro's shot was saved by Getafe goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Then, trouble arrived for the hosts.
Getafe's Pablo Sarabia delivered a warning shot in the 32nd minute, curling a free-kick narrowly off target. Five minutes later, the visitors equalised.
Sarabia scooped a 37th-minute free-kick into Barcelona's box, where Lafita controlled the ball—possibly with his arm—and shot low past Jose Pinto. The linesman raised his flag to disallow the goal, but referee Fernando Teixeira Vitienes overruled him and awarded the goal.
Barcelona had a big chance to score a second just before half-time, Sanchez crossing invitingly for Messi in stoppage time, but Messi was unable to put his foot to the ball.
Another Barca chance came early in the second half as Messi forced Cesar to save with a low, hard shot from the edge of the box. Sanchez then redirected an Alves cross onto the bar in the 53rd minute.
With the score still level in the 66th minute, Martino gambled with a substitution, introducing Cesc Fabregas for Javier Mascherano and switching to a three-man Barcelona defence.
The move worked quickly as Barcelona retook the lead one minute later—with Fabregas featuring prominently. After collecting a pass on the right, Fabregas crossed into the middle, where Pedro's shot was blocked. Sanchez reacted quickest and slammed a low shot past Cesar for a 2-1 lead.
Fabregas nearly put his own name on the scoresheet in the 69th minute, cutting to the right side of Getafe's box before shooting over the bar. Barca had another big chance three minutes later as Messi crossed to the back post for Alves, but Alves' header flew wide of the post.
Messi came close again in the 76th minute, lifting a shot inches over the bar from Sanchez's long pass over the top. Getafe then carved out a chance of their own four minutes later, when Jaime Gavilan picked out Sarabia with a lofted cross. Sarabia made solid contact with his volley, but Pinto alertly moved across his line to save and preserve Barcelona's lead.
It lasted until the second minute of stoppage time, when Lafita popped up with his second goal of the day—a strike that could prove fatal to Barcelona's title ambitions.
Gavilan crossed from the left, picking out Lafita, who powered his header past Pinto to steal a precious point for the visitors—and possibly kill off Barcelona's challenge.
After the match, Martino placed the blame for the result on himself, saying "(t)he responsibility in situations like this is always the manager." As quoted by Inside Spanish Football, the Barca manager added:
It really wasn’t the game we expected. There was always the possibility we wouldn’t achieve our objective, but not because of our own mistakes. Today we’ve had some distractions and we’ve paid for those. In the final minutes we’ve paid very dearly, because they didn’t get forward much and they’ve taken their chances.
There were times in the game where we should have taken more advantage, rather than suffer up to the final play of the game, as we’ve done. There were few chances left to win La Liga and our aim was to stretch them out as long as we could.
|Barcelona Player Ratings|
|Cesc Fabregas (for Mascherano, 66')||CM||N/A||8|
|Alex Song (for Xavi, 87')||DM||N/A||No rating|
|Cristian Tello (for Pedro, 90')||Wing||N/A||No rating|
Barcelona play at Elche in La Liga next Sunday. Getafe host Sevilla the same day.