Madrid, March 31 (IANS) FC Barcelona saw two points escape as they closed-in on the La Liga title as they could only draw 2-2 away to Celta Vigo.
Borja Oubina’s (89th minute) header gave the home side a share of the points after it had looked as if Lionel Messi’s 43rd goal of the season would give Barca the win. Messi has scored in his side’s last 19 league games; an entire half season and sees him find the net against every side in the league, reports Xinhua.
He had put Barca ahead (73rd) after accepting a fine pass from Cristiano Tello, who also had a good afternoon in a much changed Barca side with players such as Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, David Villa and Andres Iniesta all rested with one eye on their Champions League trip to Paris next Tuesday.
With Celta playing deep and looking to play on the break and Barca struggling to connect due to many changes, the game took its time and it was not until just before the half hour that Celta created the first decent chance.
Gerard Pique fluffed a clearance and Pinto had to save twice from close range to deny Augusto Fernandez before Christian Tello shot high and wide at the other end after being set up by Messi.
Celta took the lead before the break after Natxo Insa was the smartest in the class to poke home after a mishit shot from Fabian Orellana but Celta’s joy didn’t last as Tello made no mistake with his second chance of the game, curling the ball past Javi Varas and in off the post to make it 1-1.
The second half continued with much the same tonic as Celta worked hard and made it tough on their rivals. Messi’s goal had looked to be decisive but Oubina’s late header gives Celta a fighting chance of avoiding the drop.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid also rested key players for their trip to play a Zaragoza side that is yet to win in 2013 and almost paid heavily for it. Rodri put Zaragoza ahead after six minutes and the home side made Real Madrid suffer on a rainy night in the La Romareda Stadium until Cristiano Ronaldo scored after 37 minutes against the run of play.
Madrid improved after Jose Mourinho made a triple substitution bringing Mesut Ozil, Angel de Maria and Sami Khedira into the game midway through the second half but they had goalkeeper Diego Lopez, who was preferred to Iker Casillas, to thank for three excellent saves to secure a point.
Speaking after the game Mourinho said that for a long time his side’s ambition had been to finish in the top three in the league and that his side’s objectives for the season were winning the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Elsewhere, Malaga poured cold water on Rayo Vallecano’s European ambitions with a 3-1 win in Vallecas thanks to goals from Weligton, Julio Cesar Baptista and Pedro Morales as they warmed up for their Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund in fine style.
Finally Ruben Garcia’s 40th minute goal gave Levante a 1-0 win at home in an exciting game against Sevilla to keep their hopes of a quick return to Europe alive.