Samuel Eto'o scored twice as leaders Barcelona came from two goals down to preserve their 22-match unbeaten league run with a 2-2 draw at Real Betis. The point gives champions Real Madrid, currently 13 points behind in second, a chance to cut the gap at the top to ten points when they face Sporting Gijon tomorrow.
Juan Melli and former Liverpool man Mark Gonzalez put Betis into a 2-0 lead after just 25 minutes, as Barcelona looked set for their first defeat since the opening day of the season. Eto'o pulled a goal back close to half-time and then equalised six minutes from the end for his 23rd goal of the season, but Barcelona's run of ten straight league wins still came to an end.
"A point isn't bad and I can't fault the players for their effort," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "We dominated the game and had lots of chances to win it, but Betis are a good side and they defended well. After so many consecutive victories, it is normal that we eventually slip up and it happened here [in Seville]."
Barcelona had a number of stars in action on international duty during the week and Guardiola rested forwards Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry, while captain Carles Puyol was missing through injury. Barcelona had a nightmare start with Betis scoring twice inside seven minutes. Melli found the target on 18 minutes with a fine header, before Gonzalez struck for the hosts on 25 minutes after the visitors failed to deal with Sergio Garcia's cross.
Trailing 2-0, Barcelona got a break seconds before the half when Andres Iniesta used his quick feet to win a penalty. Eto'o stepped up and his weak spot-kick was saved by Ricardo, but the ball fell back into his path and he reacted quickly to prod home the rebound. Barcelona's unbeaten league run that stretched back to the opening day of the season was under threat.
Betis, who won at rivals Sevilla for the first time in 13 years last weekend, thought they had made it 3-1, but a 48th-minute strike was ruled out for offside. A minute later, Eto'o should have equalised. The Cameroon forward lost his marker with a great turn, but shot wide with the whole goal in front of him. Eto'o made amends late on, though, with the leveller to salvage a point.
Riazor Stadium draw, Real in action tomorrow
Elsewhere, Deportivo La Coruna and Osasuna played out a scoreless draw at the Riazor Stadium. Osasuna beat Valencia last time out and Unai Emery's team are looking to bounce back against Malaga at the Mestalla Stadium today. Valencia lie fourth, but are only two points above Malaga, who have been a revelation since winning promotion last season.
Champions Real Madrid play at Sporting Gijon Sunday and hope to repeat the 7-1 drubbing they gave the promoted outfit earlier this season. Coach Juande Ramos must do without Dutch duo Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, both of whom picked up knocks while on international duty with the Netherlands, while compatriot Rafael van der Vaart is suspended.