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Barca setback spells trouble
by Paul Kennedy, February 15th, 2010 12:43AM



[SPAIN] Real Madrid has city rival Atletico to thank for blowing open La Liga race with its 2-1 win over leader Barcelona on Sunday. The result ended Barca's unbeaten streak at 21 league games to start the season and reduced its lead over Real Madrid to two points. To make matters worse, Barca's injury woes mounted, and its much-heralded short passing game was called into question.

Barca was already missing injured Eric Abidal, Dani Alves, Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Yaya Toure and Rafa Marquez and Gerard Pique, who were suspended, when Mali midfielder Seydou Keita limped off in the 7th minute.

Atletico scored two minutes later when Jose Antonio Reyes fed Uruguayan Diego Forlan. Portuguese Simao added the Atletico's lead on a free kick in the 22nd minute.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on a close-range volley four minutes later, but while Barca never could find the equalizer.

Poor passing hurt the Catalan team, which finished the game with 83 bad passes.

"I would like to congratulate Atletico on a good game," said Barca coach Pep Guardiola. "They were very well organized while we were not at our best and did not get our passing rhythm going. I say nothing against our players because they did their best but we were not on our game. When we lost the ball, we did not position ourselves well."

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