Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman says La Liga title race is 'complicated' after being held by Eibar

Barca held as Martin Braithwaite misses penalty; Ousmane Dembele ensures point but Ronald Koeman's side slip to sixth as the manager admits Atletico Madrid may be too strong for a Barcelona title challenge; Sevilla end Villarreal run

Martin Braithwaite missed a penalty as Barcelona were held
Image: Martin Braithwaite missed a penalty as Barcelona were held

Barcelona suffered without injured Lionel Messi as they drew 1-1 at home to struggling Eibar, with manager Ronald Koeman admitting the La Liga title race is "complicated".

Koeman conceded the title appears to be beyond Barcelona this season and admitted after the game his side were not up to speed.

"If I'm realistic, the title is very complicated," he said. "Nothing is impossible, but you have to recognise the distance.

"Atletico seem to me to be very good, very strong. They don't concede many goals."

Eibar, who went into the game sitting one place above the relegation zone, took a shock lead in the 57th minute through striker Kike Garcia before Barca substitute Ousmane Dembele levelled 10 minutes later.

It might have been different had Martin Braithwaite not missed a penalty in the first half.

The Dane endured a miserable evening as he also had a goal ruled offside by VAR and was denied what seemed a sure winner from point-blank range when the ball bounced off his chest on the rebound and squirmed wide.

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Messi had returned to Barcelona from Argentina earlier on Tuesday but watched from the stands as he is still recovering from an ankle problem, and his team-mates lacked cutting edge.

Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho might have dealt Koeman a further injury blow after leaving the field late on with what appeared to be a left knee problem.

Koeman's side slip to sixth in the table, seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who have played two fewer games.

'We lacked Messi'

Lionel Messi (back, centre) watched on from the stands as Barcelona were held to a draw
Image: Lionel Messi (back, centre) watched on from the stands as Barcelona were held to a draw

Koeman bemoaned his inability to pick Messi, the subject of increasing transfer speculation as his contract ticks down, while the absence of other key players also told for a youthful Barca side.

"I don't want to say we lacked experience," Koeman added.

"There is a transition in the team. There are also injuries. We play with young players - today we had five or six - but we also had experience.

"We lacked Leo, who makes a difference. But the feeling is still, how did we not win? We created many opportunities, missed a penalty, and gave away a goal.

"It cannot be said that Barca play better without Messi. He is on another level. In general, we played a good game, but individual mistakes have cost us points."

Elsewhere in La Liga...

Sevilla climbed to fourth after a 2-0 win over Villarreal just below them in the standings.

Lucas Ocampos opened the scoring from the spot with just eight minutes gone and Youssef En-Nesyri struck eight minutes after the interval as Unai Emery's side's 18-game unbeaten run finally came to an end.

Jos Morales scored twice in Levante's 4-3 victory over Real Betis.

Oscar Duarte opened the scoring for Levante in the second minute before Aissa Mandi equalised 10 minutes later.

Morales then scored two goals in two minutes before Roger Marti extended the advantage early in the second half.

Substitute Sergio Canales scored twice for the visitors late in his first match since recovering from a muscle injury that sidelined him for seven games, but it wasn't enough to stop Levante.

Real Valladolid drew 1-1 at Cadiz, who are four games without a win since their stunning victory against Barcelona earlier this month.

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