Barca, Atletico end perfect starts, Real wins


Mon, Oct 21, 2013 - Page 18

Barcelona missed the chance to equal the best-ever start to a La Liga season as they dropped their first points of the campaign in a 0-0 draw with CA Osasuna.

Lionel Messi started on the bench and the visitors failed to make the most of their dominance in the first half, with Marc Bartra’s wayward header their only serious effort on goal.

Neymar and Cesc Fabregas then passed up great chances to put Barca in front at the beginning of the second period, before Messi was finally introduced for the final quarter.

However, even the Argentine striker could not open the door as Osasuna stood firm to prevent Barca scoring in the league for the first time since January last year.

Barca’s best chance in the first half came from a set piece when Bartra headed over when completely unmarked from Xavi’s corner in stoppage-time.

Neymar was inches away from finding the breakthrough nine minutes after the break, but he just could not reach Martin Montoya’s low cross on the stretch.

Fabregas then blasted over after being played in perfectly by Xavi.

With the chances beginning to arrive, Martino summoned Messi from the bench 22 minutes from time in place of Xavi.

The Argentine fired a warning shot wide with his first opening 12 minutes from the end, but Barca failed to create another clear sight of goal and had to settle for a draw.

A point was enough though to move Martino’s men to the top of the table as Atletico Madrid also ended their 100 percent record with a 1-0 defeat at RCD Espanyol.

Real Madrid cut the gap on the leaders to three points ahead of their El Clasico clash at the Camp Nou this weekend with a routine 2-0 victory over Malaga at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Gareth Bale made his return to action for Los Blancos as a late substitute and won a penalty, which Cristiano Ronaldo converted to seal the three points after Angel di Maria had given Real the lead.

Bale had been kept in reserve from the start due to his lack of match practice, but Ancelotti believes he will be ready to start on Wednesday in the Champions League when Juventus visit the Bernabeu.