Barcelona draw to extend winless streak to four matches

Pressure builds on Ronald Koeman after Catalans held 1-1 by Alaves

epa08790043 Barcelona's striker Antoine Griezmann (R) scores the 1-1 during the Spanish LaLiga soccer match between Deportivo Alaves and FC Barcelona at Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria, Basque Country, Spain, 31 October 2020.  EPA/David Aguilar
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Barcelona made it four La Liga games without a win on Saturday after failing to beat 10-man Alaves, a 1-1 draw leaving Ronald Koeman's side sitting 12th in the table.

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 Sevilla.

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.

Koeman under the pump

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 January.

epa08779905 (FILE) - Barcelona FC President Josep Maria Bartomeu during the presentation of Dutch coach Ronald Koeman as the club's new head coach in Barcelona, Spain, 19 August 2020 (re-issued 28 October 2020). Bartomeu resigned from his position as Barcelona president on 27 October 2020 together with the rest of the board. He also announced before leaving his position that Barcelona has accepted the invitation to join a proposed European Super League.  EPA/Alejandro Garcia *** Local Caption *** 56284196

"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 dissent.

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 line.

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.

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