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Without Messi, Barcelona held to home draw by Malaga

MADRID (AP) — Ineffective without Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Barcelona was held to 0-0 by Malaga, missing a chance to move to the top of the Spanish league on Saturday.

Despite playing at home and with an extra player from the 68th minute, Barcelona was unable to overcome the absence of the unwell Messi and suspended Suarez, with poor finishing and a solid performance by Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni.

The result left the Catalan club one point behind Real Madrid, which played in the derby at Atletico Madrid late Saturday.

Kameni came up with several key saves at the Camp Nou, including a spectacular one four minutes into injury time on a close-range header by Neymar.

“We know these types of games are tough,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “We tried but we were unlucky in front of the goal. That’s football. If you don’t finish you can’t win.”

Barcelona, which was trying to win its fifth game in a row, hadn’t been held scoreless in 17 league games. The last time it failed to score at least a goal was in a 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad in April.

“We played relatively well, but sometimes the ball just doesn’t want to go in,” said defender Gerard Pique, who played the final part of the game as a striker. “We let two points slip away, but we have to move on.”

Malaga played with 10 men from the 68th after defender Diego Llorente was sent off for a foul on Neymar, and it also lost forward Juankar because of another red card, this time for complaining, in the last minute of stoppage time.

Carrying one of the league’s best defenses, Malaga had a key chance on a counterattack in the 57th, when Juankar got past the goalkeeper but missed the open net with an angled shot.

Pique had a goal disallowed in the 83rd because of offside after Andre Gomes struck the crossbar with a header. Just two minutes earlier, substitute midfielder Ivan Rakitic nearly broke the deadlock for Barcelona with a header off a corner.

Pique was back in action after recovering from an ankle injury, but Andres Iniesta remained sidelined because of a knee ailment.

Messi was ruled out of Saturday’s game just hours before kickoff because he “was not feeling well and had vomited,” the club said.

“We’ve also lost games with Messi and Suarez playing,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “You need to win titles with the entire squad.”

Arda Turan was at midfield in Messi’s absence, and Paco Alcacer played up front in Suarez’s spot.

DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA 2, SEVILLA 3

Sevilla scored twice in the final five minutes to rally from two goals down at Deportivo La Coruna and stay near the top of the standings.

Deportivo appeared in control after goals by Ryan Babel in the first minute and Florin Andone in the 42nd, but Sevilla got back into the game with Steven N’Zonzi’s strike just before halftime at Riazor Stadium.

Victor “Vitolo” Machin, who came into the match as a halftime substitute, equalized with a right-footed shot from inside the area in the 87th. Defender Gabriel Mercado netted the winner from close range after a corner two minutes into injury time.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli rested some of Sevilla’s regular starters ahead of the Champions League game against Juventus on Tuesday.

Sevilla, coming off a 2-1 home loss to Barcelona, moved to third place.

Deportivo, enduring a five-game winless streak, has 10 points, only one outside the relegation zone.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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