Madrid (AFP) – Barcelona’s La Liga title challenge suffered a huge blow as the Spanish champions were controversially held 1-1 at Real Betis despite Luis Suarez’s last minute equaliser on Sunday.
A point is enough to move Barca above Sevilla into second on goal difference after Sevilla also missed the chance to go top of the table as they were reduced to 10 men after just two minutes in a 3-1 defeat at Espanyol.
Real Madrid lead both by a point and have two games in hand on their title rivals, the first of which comes at home to Real Sociedad later on Sunday.
Aleix Alegria gave Betis the lead their dominance deserved 15 minutes from time when he bundled home from close range after Marc-Andre ter Stegen flapped at a corner.
However, Barca were rightly infuriated seconds later as the ball clearly crossed the Betis goalline, but no goal was given by referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez.
Suarez did at least rescue a point in the dying seconds, though, as he slotted home Lionel Messi’s through ball for his 21st goal of the season.
“We have to help the referees,” Barca boss Luis Enrique told BeIN Sports Spain.
“The technology can help them. I say that for all situations not just ones that go for me, but against me too.”
Suarez was less understanding as he claimed the ball “was a metre over the line.”
Ultimately Enrique paid the price for again heavily rotating his side with Wednesday’s Copa del Rey semi-final, first leg at Atletico Madrid in mind.
“The feeling I have is that we have won one point (not lost two),” he added.
Enrique made six changes in all, including three of the back four and Betis took advantage with a bright start.
Ter Stegen was forced into saves from Ruben Castro and Dani Ceballos early on.
However, Barca arguably had the best chance of the first-half when Antonio Adan flew off his line to deny Neymar from another scintillating Messi pass.
Ceballos saw a dipping long-range effort come back off the bar before Castro struck the post with Ter Stegen beaten at his near post.
– Sevilla beaten –
The German goalkeeper had a moment to forget for the opening goal as he failed to get a good connection on an attempted punch under pressure from two Betis players and the ball fell kindly for Alegria to tap home.