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Title blow as Barca concede late in draw at Celta

MADRID: Barcelona’s hopes of staying in front of Real Madrid took a hit after another stumble in La Liga.

Barca were held by Celta Vigo to a 2-2 draw after conceding in the 88th minute on Saturday, opening the way for Real to take sole possession of the lead.

Iago Aspas scored from a clever low free kick that went outside the wall to steal the win from Barca, which moved only one point in front of Real who have a game in hand.

“It’s a disappointing feeling, we lost two very important points in the fight for the title,” Barca striker Luis Suarez said. “Now we have to wait for Real Madrid to lose some points.”

“Our margin for error is getting smaller,” Barca coach Quique Setien said. “We have to win everything and hope that our rival makes mistakes.”

Barca face an even tougher test on Tuesday against in-form Atletico Madrid, who held off a late fightback from Alaves to win 2-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano. Atletico are third, now four points clear of Sevilla.

Celta moved further away from demotion with the draw, opening an eight-point gap to the relegation zone. They were coming off two victories, including a 6-0 rout of Alaves.

“We’ve won eight of the last 12 points, we have to be very happy with the team,” Aspas said.

Both Barca goals came from Suarez, who hadn’t scored since recovering from surgery on his right knee in January.

He got on the board first with a 20th-minute header after a set-piece taken by Lionel Messi, who again fell short of his 700th career goal for club and country. It was the third straight game in which Messi had a chance to reach the milestone goal.

Aspas, who hit the post in the first half, started the breakaway that led to the close-range equaliser by Russian striker Fedor Smolov in the 50th.

Suarez put Barca ahead again with a shot from near the centre of the area after another assist by Messi in the 67th, but Aspas pulled off the late equaliser with his free kick that left goalkeeper Marc-Andr ter Stegen flat-footed.

Stegen later saved Barcelona from leaving Vigo without any points by making a goal-line save after a close-range shot by Nolito in the final minutes.

Atletico hold off Alaves

Atletico held on to beat Alaves as Joselu gave the visitors hope by converting an injury-time penalty after Saul Niguez’s header and Diego Costa’s spot-kick had put Diego Simeone’s side in control.

Victory means Atletico have taken 13 from a possible 15 points since the resumption and ahead of their trip to Camp Nou on Tuesday.

It was the third consecutive loss for Alaves, who remained near the relegation zone.

Athletic Bilbao increased their chances of qualifying for the Europa League by defeating relegation-threatened Mallorca 3-1 at home, moving to ninth place.

The Basque Country club is three points behind sixth-placed Villarreal in the final qualification spot for second-tier European club competition.

Mallorca, winless since the league resumed, remained in the relegation zone and could drop to last place depending on other results.

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