Barcelona stumble but regain La Liga lead

Celta Vigo have denied champions Barcelona a victory in their Spanish La Liga clash.
Celta Vigo have denied champions Barcelona a victory in their Spanish La Liga clash.

Barcelona's hopes of defending their Spanish La Liga title have suffered another blow after they were held to a 2-2 draw at lowly Celta Vigo.

Barca conceded in the 88th minute on Saturday to drop two crucial points but the away result was enough to lift the champions back to the top of the standings - one point clear of Real Madrid who face rock-bottom Espanyol on Sunday.

"It's a disappointing feeling, we lost two very important points in the fight for the title," Barcelona striker Luis Suarez said.

"Now we have to wait for Real Madrid to lose some points."

Barcelona gave up their league lead after a draw at Sevilla two rounds ago while Madrid have yet to drop points since the season restart.

"Our margin for error is getting smaller," Barcelona coach Quique Setien said.

"We have to win everything and hope that our rival makes mistakes."

Iago Aspas scored with a clever low free-kick to grab an important draw for Celta, who are 16th and eight points clear of the drop zone with six rounds of matches to play.

Both Barcelona 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 sists on 699 career goals for club and country.

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

Suarez put Barcelona ahead again on 67 minutes after another assist by Messi but Aspas pulled off the late equaliser with his free kick that left Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen flat-footed.

"I knew what I was going to do," Aspas said.

"We had watched videos and knew that the players in the wall were going to jump."

Saul Niguez and Diego Costa scored second-half goals as third-placed Atletico Madrid defeated Alaves 2-1 for a fourth victory in a row.

The home win moved Atletico four points clear of fourth-placed Sevilla.

Diego Simeone's team remained unbeaten since the league resumed.

Athletic Bilbao improved their chances of qualifying for the Europa League by defeating relegation-threatened Mallorca 3-1 at home, moving to ninth place and just three points adrift of sixth spot.

Australian Associated Press