Barca held to draw by Malaga

Lionel Messi (Getty Images)
Lionel Messi (Getty Images)

Madrid — Lionel Messi failed to take his chances as Barcelona was held to a 0-0 draw by a disciplined and defensive Malaga side in the Spanish league on Wednesday.

Messi missed two opportunities in the first half and never looked comfortable on the ball after the break.

Barcelona leads the standings on 13 points after five matches, with Sevilla second on goal difference after it beat Real Sociedad 1-0. Atletico Madrid is third on 11 points after beating Almeria 1-0 and Valencia, with 10 points, plays on Thursday against Cordoba.

In other matches on Wednesday, Rayo Vallecano beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1, Eibar drew 1-1 with Villarreal and Levante beat Granada 1-0.

Messi blasted a direct free kick well over Idriss Kameni's crossbar in the 15th and then chested the ball out of play in the 26th as he raced forward to try and latch onto Jordi Alba's inviting cross.

Malaga kept Barcelona in check and then came close to scoring in the 68th minute when Nordin Amrabat hit a powerful shot wide.

"This result was due to an accumulation of factors, and Malaga also played with great merit," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said. "It's a point, and we must carry on. It's never easy to play against a defense made up of nine or 10 men."

The Andalusian side piled on the pressure after Barcelona right-back Douglas — who made a poor debut for the league leaders — made a clumsy tackle and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was forced to punch out Luis Romero's free kick in the 71st.

"We took the game in the direction we wanted to and knew we would have the occasional opportunity on the counterattack," Malaga defender Ignacio Camacho said.

There was a tense moment in the 82nd minute when Wellington pushed Messi to the ground when the ball was not in play — earning the Malaga defender a booking. Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was shown a yellow card for protesting about the incident.

Sevilla closed the points gap on Barcelona with its victory over Real Sociedad.

Gerard Deulofeu found himself in front of an open goal to hit Sevilla's winner in the 18th minute, following a cross by Benoit Tremoulinas.

Atletico Madrid stayed close to the pacesetters after a header by Miranda gave the capital club a 1-0 win at Almeria.

Miranda rose to head in Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion's beautifully-weighted corner kick on the hour mark.

Almeria goalkeeper Ruben Martinez kept his side in the game when he correctly read Arda Turan's attempt to lob him in the 69th.

With coach Diego Simeone still serving out a touchline ban, it was up to his assistant German Burgos to give the Atletico squad instructions and encouragement.

Elsewhere, Bilbao slumped to defeat after taking the lead against Rayo Vallecano.

Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz tapped in Oscar De Marcos' cross in the 21st but Leo Baptistao equalized for Rayo by taking advantage of a goalkeeping blunder by Gorka Iraizoz in the 39th.

Leo Baptistao then won the match when Gael Kakuta intercepted a poor clearance and picked out the Brazilian with a pass in the 89th.

Mikel Arruabarrena scored in the ninth minute for Eibar and Villarreal equalized when Gerard Moreno unleashed a shot that flew just inside the far post, giving goalkeeper Xabier Iruretagoiena no chance in the 71st.

Ruben Garcia scored Levante's first goal of the season when he hit left-footed shot past Granada's goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez in the 46th.

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