La Liga: Barcelona stumble at Camp Nou again

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Champions Barcelona dropped two more home points in a frustrating 1-1 draw with Real Mallorca at Camp Nou on Sunday and fell three points behind league leaders Valencia.

Lionel Messi made his first league start since injuring his ankle a fortnight ago and netted his third goal of the campaign on 20 minutes to put Barca ahead, but Emilio N’Sue equalised with a header three minutes before half-time.

Two goals in three home matches is a poor return for Barca and the Mallorca draw, coupled with the shock loss to promoted Hercules, mean Barcelona have already dropped five points at home.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola was unhappy at the missed chances and said his team would not be matching last season’s league record of 99 points.

“We should have killed off the game but we didn’t and let two points slip from our grasp,” bemoaned Guardiola.

“We won’t get 99 points this season. Last season’s points tally is something very difficult to achieve.”

The champions stay third but are two points behind second-placed Villarreal, 2-0 winners over Racing Santander on Sunday, and three behind pace-setters Valencia, who they face at Camp Nou in their next league match.

Unbeaten Real Madrid, two points behind Barcelona in fourth, can now go above their rivals with victory over winless Deportivo La Coruna later on Sunday.

Barcelona had to do without playmaker Xavi due to tendinitis and manager Guardiola also decided to rest Spanish internationals Sergi Busquets, Carles Puyol and David Villa.

Messi was back in the starting line-up, however, and was his usual menancing self, showing no sign of the ankle injury that sidelined him.

After early chances for Bojan Krkic and Gerard Pique, the hosts went ahead when Pedro Rodriguez’s clever flick set up Messi and the Argentine coolly dispatched a curling shot into the bottom-left corner.

Messi, Seydou Keita and Eric Abidal all had sights on goal but Mallorca somehow equalised, with N’Sue heading in a corner.

After dominating for 40 minutes Barca had to stomach going in level at the interval.

Mallorca were much improved after the break and could have gone in front on 62 minutes following a rare error from Pique.

The centre-back misplaced a pass to gift the ball to Pierre Webo, who thundered a shot at goal, but Victor Valdes was alert, scrambling across goal to palm the effort wide and save Pique’s blushes.

Bojan hit the post from an acute angle in the 76th minute and Barca pressed for a winner but Mallorca held firm.

It was a first away point for Mallorca and a sweet reward for their coach Michael Laudrup on his return to Camp Nou, where he starred for Barca between 1989 and 1994.

Villarreal beat Racing 2-0 on Sunday for a fifth consecutive victory.

Brazilian international striker Nilmar scored his fifth goal of the season after just eight minutes and Giuseppe Rossi netted his fourth of the campaign on 13 minutes as Villarreal wrapped up the game early on.

In other matches, new Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano enjoyed a winning league debut as his side cruised to a 3-1 home win over rivals Atletico Madrid.

Goals from Alvaro Negredo, Diego Perotti and Frederic Kanoute clinched the spoils for Sevilla, who move above Atletico into fifth place.

Manzano, who took over from the sacked Antonio Alvarez, has won both of his first two matches in charge, with a 1-0 Europa League win at Borussia Dortmund on Thursday followed up by triumph against Atletico.

Atletico had hoped to enact revenge for their 2-0 loss to Sevilla in last season’s King’s Cup final, but it was not to be.

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