Barcelona, Dec 13 (IANS) FC Barcelona suffered a setback in its bid to repeat as La Liga champions, squandering a two-goal lead at home and settling for a 2-2 draw against Deportivo La Coruna. The Catalans seemed to have a victory assured when they took a 2-0 lead on the strength of a phenomenal free-kick goal by super-striker Lionel Messi in the 38th minute and an equally stellar right-footed strike from well outside the area by Croatian Ivan Rakitic that beat Depor netminder German Lux 17 minutes into the second half Saturday, reports Efe. But Deportivo head coach Victor Sanchez gave his team a jolt with his decision in the 70th minute to insert Miguel Cardoso, who delivered a perfect pass seven minutes later that set up Lucas Perez for a score at close range. Barcelona’s offense was ineffectual and its midfield play began to break down, with Sergio Busquets showing signs of fatigue, thus opening the door for the visitors to complete a stunning comeback. With just five minutes to play before injury time, Perez played the role of facilitator and set up Alex Bergantiños for a strike that snuck into the net just inside the far post. The fans at Camp Nou groaned, but there would be no reaction by the host squad, which was evidently hurt by the injury to Brazilian star striker Neymar in a game when Messi seemed out of sorts in the second half. Barça midfielder Andres Iniesta expressed his disappointment afterward.
“It’s a bit inexplicable, especially the end. We lost control when we needed to have it. We made things easy for an opponent that was losing 2-0,” he told Movistar Plus. “These things happen and we’ve got to analyze it so it doesn’t happen again. In two weeks, we’ve squandered points that make (the leaderboard) more crowded. Now we’ve got to switch our mindset because we’re playing for a title (the FIFA Club World Cup) and later we’ll continue with La Liga,” Iniesta added. Barcelona, which was in dominant form over a three-game stretch in late November and early December, including a 4-0 rout of arch-rival Real Madrid, has suddenly hit a rough patch and settled for three draws against Valencia (also, in La Liga play), Bayer Leverkusen (in Champions League action) and Deportivo in the last week. The Catalans, who will now head for the Club World Cup in Japan, could see their La Liga lead trimmed further by the end of the weekend depending on the results of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid on Sunday. –Indo-Asian news Service sam/vt
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