BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona dropped their first points of the La Liga season as their star-studded forward line misfired in a 0-0 draw away to Malaga on Wednesday.
Lionel Messi and Neymar have both shone in recent weeks as Barca won their first four games under new coach Luis Enrique but they failed to make an impression against Malaga with the Catalan side struggling with their link-up play.
Barca are still yet to concede a goal but that too came under threat in the second half as Malaga pressed forward and came closest to scoring from a Luis Alberto free-kick from a tight angle which keeper Claudio Bravo turned onto a post.
“We tried to move the ball around and get on top in the game but it was difficult as Malaga defended in depth,” Andres Iniesta told reporters.
“Malaga did very well but at the same time we lacked speed to cause them problems and create chances.
“We tried different tactics but it always depends on how sharp we are and it didn’t work out for us today.”
Barca top the standings on 13 points, ahead of Sevilla, who beat Real Sociedad 1-0, on goal difference.
Malaga have not been an easy team to breakdown, especially at home where they have not conceded a goal, and they held their positions well with Sergi Darder and Ignacio Camacho giving them little space in the middle of the pitch.
At the same time Messi and Neymar did not look the potent duo that had helped Barca thrash Levante 5-0 at the weekend.
The closest Barcelona came to scoring was through a Marc Bartra header from a corner which went just wide but there was a more consistent threat at the other end.
A Roberto Rosales drive whistled just past Bravo’s right post and then the Barca keeper pushed an Alberto free-kick against the same post and away for a corner midway through the second half.
A second-half Miranda header ended the resistance of determined Almeria as third-placed Atletico Madrid won 1-0 away from home.
Atletico, missing injured striker Mario Mandzukic, looked toothless in attack but they pressed forward more earnestly after the break and got their reward with Miranda heading home a Koke corner on the hour mark.
It was the Brazilian’s third goal of the season and Diego Simeone’s side once again capitalised on their strength in the air for an important win on the back of their Champions League defeat by Olympiakos and a weekend home draw with Celta Vigo in La Liga.
“We controlled the game and we had chances in the first half which their keeper dealt with and then after the goal we again moved the ball around well,” Simeone told a news conference.
“To have a corner you have to attack and the team worked hard to create the chance which Miranda took well.
“It is an important win for us at a ground which is always difficult for us.”