MADRID: Neymar was sent-off as Barcelona lost further ground on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga in a shock 2-0 defeat to Malaga on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Real are now three points clear and have a game in hand despite Antoine Griezmann’s classy finish five minutes from time snatching a 1-1 draw for Atletico Madrid earlier at the Santiago Bernabeu.
However, Real can now afford to lose to Barca at home in two weeks’ time and still have a first title in five years in their own hands.
“No matter what the table is like Madrid-Barca is always an attractive game, but winning La Liga depends on winning all the points beforehand,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
“Today we had a very good opportunity and we couldn’t take the points.”
Neymar picked up the first red card of his Barcelona career for two bookable offences as the Catalans were left to rue letting Sandro Ramirez join Malaga for free last summer.
Sandro exposed some awful defending from Jeremy Mathieu to sprint clear on goal and slot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen at his near post.
Malaga also had the better chances of the second-half filled with controversy as Juanpi shot straight at Ter Stegen when clean through.
Neymar had been shown his first booking for delaying a Malaga free kick whilst tying his shoelaces and stupidly charged into Diego Llorente 25 minutes from time to see red.
The hosts then had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside when substitute Adalberto Penaranda finished off a flowing counter-attack.
However, Barca were also infuriated with referee Gil Manzano when he somehow awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box when Sergi Roberto had been brought down clearly inside the area.
Malaga finally picked off the 10 men in the final minute when Pablo Fornals unselfishly squared for Jony to smash home from close range.
Barca’s defeat meant Real’s disappointment earlier in the day was short lived.
Pepe’s towering header early in the second half looked to have Real heading five points clear at the top in the Madrid derby.
However, Griezmann rounded Keylor Navas to slot home at the near post five minutes from time.
“It is a draw but we’ve lost two points. Clearly we deserved all three points today,” said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
“We played very well, but we lacked the second goal that would have allowed us to relax.”
After a slow start, Real took control of the game as the first half wore on and only two stunning stops prevented Zidane’s men from taking a half-time lead.
Firstly, Jan Oblak tipped over Karim Benzema’s effort after a neat one-two with Ronaldo had freed the Frenchman inside the box.