Only the most extreme optimist could give Barça any chance of reclaiming La Liga following this afternoon’s 2-2 draw with Getafe at Camp Nou. The game was dedicated to the memory of Tito Vilanova and it began well enough when Leo Messi opened the scoring halfway through the first half with his 28th league goal of the season. However, a controversial equalizer from Ángel Lafita put Getafe level before the break, and after Alexis Sanchez fired Barça ahead again in the 67th minute, Lafita stunned Camp Nou in injury time with his second goal of the game.
Barça began with the same XI that started last week in Villarreal but the early stages suggested Getafe would be tough to break down. The visitors, desperately in need of points in their battle against relegation, set out in a compact defensive 4-3-3 which forced Barça to look for the wings. Adriano had the first shot on target in the third minute but his effort went straight at Getafe keeper Julio Cesar. Six minutes later Messi found Adriano on the left but his low cross whizzed across the goalmouth without finding a finisher.
Alves and Alexis were also busy on the right but besides winning a couple of corners they had little luck. Barça began to find shooting chances but with Getafe’s packed defence Iniesta, Messi, then Iniesta again had shots blocked. Then in the 23rd minute after a quick combination between Iniesta and Messi, Xavi swept the ball out to Alves who hit a first-time low cross towards the penalty spot, Messi had continued his run and he side-footed the ball high to the right of the diving Julio Cesar and Barça were in front.
Pedro might have made it 2-0 three minutes later after being sent through by Mascherano’s pass, but after cutting inside past Valera his shot hit Julio Cesar. However, Barça’s intensity dropped and Getafe began to come out in search of a goal. Sammir caused problems, winning a free kick after going past Mascherano, but Sarabia hit his shot well over. Then in the 36th minute a slip by Mascherano allowed Sammir a run at goal which was only stopped by Mascherano’s lunge which earned the Argentinian the first yellow card of the game. Sarabia took the free-kick with an unorthodox spoon-scoop kick over the wall, as the ball came down Lafita impeded Pedro with an arm before sweeping the ball past a surprised Pinto from an angle. The linesman signalled a foul and it appeared that referee Jose Antonio Teixeira Vitienes had disallowed the goal but then after consulting with his linesman he surprised everybody by letting the goal stand.
There was little reaction from Barça apart from one decent move just before the break involving Messi and Iniesta, but when the ball came to Alexis, instead of shooting he tried to pass to Messi who couldn’t quite arrive in time to finish.
The first half had been disappointing but after the break Barça came out with more intention. Iniesta couldn’t get any power on his header from Alves’s cross, then soon after, Messi whipped a low shot from the edge of the area that Julio Cesar did well to save near the post. Barça kept pushing forward and from another Alves cross in the 53rd minute, Alexis, challenging for the ball with Rafa Lopez, managed to divert the ball against the crossbar.
Pedro fired straight at the keeper after a fine run from Messi, but the goal wouldn’t come, and with the chances drying up, Martino called for Cesc Fabregas to see if the ex-Arsenal man could again make a difference as a sub. The decision to take off Mascherano with 25 minutes remaining came as a surprise but there was no change to the system as Busquets moved back into defence and Xavi moved back into Busquets’ defensive midfield role. Within a minute of coming on Fabregas made his first intervention combining with Alves and Pedro to break free on the right before squaring for Pedro whose shot hit a defender, the ball broke to Alexis who cracked his shot home.
Barça went searching for a third to make the points safe but Pedro and Fabregas shot wide and then Alves missed the target with his header from Messi’s cross. Then in the 76th minute Messi struggled to control a long pass from Alves and with Julio Cesar storming out of his goal Messi could only flick a shot that looped over the keeper but came down narrowly over the bar.
Getafe showed they were by no means out of it with an attack up the left in the 80th minute, and when Gavilan crossed from the left, Pinto was fortunate that Sarabia’s volley from 10 yards went straight at him though he did very well to hold onto the shot. The warning wasn’t heeded, Martino brought on late substitutes Song and Tello but the effect left the team disorganised when Getafe again came forward up the left in the 92nd minute. With Alves caught forward, Bartra had to move across but he didn’t arrive in time to prevent Gavilan from crossing and Lafita arrived unmarked to head home.
There’s only one thing to say after this: “Aupa Atleti!”
Barça: Pinto 5.5; Alves 7, Bartra 6.5, Mascherano 5 (Fabregas m66, 6), Adriano 5.5; Xavi 5.5 (Song m87, –), Busquets 6, Iniesta 6; Alexis 6, Messi 6, Pedro 6 (Tello m91, –).
Getafe: Julio Cesar; Valera, Alexis, Rafa, Escudero; Juan Rodriguez, Lacen (Michel m86), Sarabia; Lafita, Sammir, Colunga (Gavilan m45+2).
Goals: m23 Messi 1-0, m37 Lafita 1-1, m67 Alexis 2-1, m92 Lafita 2-2.
Yellow cards: m36 Mascherano, m38 Alves, m42 Lafita, m90 Adriano.