11 December 2023
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Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman lamented on missing goal scoring opportunities after the side settled for a 1-1 away draw in La Liga against 10-men Alaves on Sunday.

Luis Rioja put Alaves in front at Mendizorrotza after an error from
Barca’s back-up goalkeeper Neto, with Antoine Griezmann equalising in
the second half, a minute after Jota Peleteiro had been sent off.

But with almost half an hour left and an extra man, Barcelona were
still unable to find a winner, instead settling for a draw to go with
recent defeats by Getafe and Real Madrid, and another draw against

It means Madrid, who had earlier won 4-1 at home to Huesca, now sit
eight points clear of their Catalan rivals, having played a game more,
while Atletico are six ahead after they beat Osasuna 3-1. Atletico will
go top if they win their game in hand.

Even at this early stage in the title race, the gap is significant
and Koeman will know the scrutiny on his position as coach will
increase, particularly after the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu as
president on Tuesday.

Bartomeu appointed Koeman coach in August and eight points from the
first six league games is not the sort of form that will impress the
next president and board, who should be voted in before the end of

“I’m very disappointed,” said Koeman. “Once again we haven’t played
well enough to get a result. The first goal was a gift and then we
created a lot of chances but didn’t take them.”

Koeman’s decision to substitute Ansu Fati with 12 minutes left was
particularly surprising given Fati had been arguably Barcelona’s most
dangerous player, perhaps even more threatening than Lionel Messi, who
endured a frustrating night.

Messi has still not scored in open play this season and while he was
at the heart of almost every Barca attack, his touch and finishing was
again not as crisp as usual. He was booked in the first half for

Fati and Griezmann both missed early chances while a Messi free-kick
would have gone in had Florian Lejeune not been perfectly placed on the

Frenkie de Jong was unlucky not to have had a penalty when nudged out
of a free header by Ximo Navarro before a Barca mistake gifted Alaves
the opening goal.

Gerard Pique underestimated how close Neto was to him and the
defender’s firmly hit backpass caught the goalkeeper by surprise. Neto
failed to adjust his feet and Rioja capitalised, robbing him of the ball
and tapping into an open net.

Koeman made three changes at half-time, with Pedri, Francisco Trincao and Miralem Pjanic all coming on.

But Barca found it difficult to break down the Alaves defence until
Peleteiro gave them an opening. He booted Pique in the face to earn a
second yellow card in the 62nd minute and in the 63rd, Griezmann
equalised, an exquisite, lifted finish pulling Barcelona level.

It was almost 2-1 a minute later but Messi’s finish was well saved
while Griezmann had a second ruled out for offside. Fati fired at goal
before going off and Pique’s finish was cleared off the line. Alaves
held on.

Hazard ends goal drought

Eden Hazard
earlier scored his first goal for Real Madrid in over a year and his
team appear to have turned a corner after their comfortable win over

Hazard has had a terrible time with injuries since joining Madrid for
100 million euros from Chelsea in 2019 but the Belgian will hope his
stunning strike from distance at the Alfredo di Stefano can kick-start
his career in Spain.

“We know the quality that Eden has,” Zidane said. “He scored a good
goal and we needed it in the first half, because after his first goal
the game was different.”

Karim Benzema and Fede Valverde made the win secure before Huesca
scored through David Ferreiro, only for Benzema to add his second and
Madrid’s fourth in injury-time.

It caps an encouraging week for Zidane’s side, which began with the
Clasico win at Camp Nou and finishes with them top of the table, two
points ahead of Real Sociedad.

Abdul Gh Lone