A strong defensive performance from Las Palmas held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw on Thursday night at the Estadio Gran Canaria in Las Palmas.
A wonderfully struck free-kick struck by Lionel Messi had Barcelona ahead at half-time, but the Pio Pio clawed back to equalise early in the second-half when Jonathan Calleri calmly converted a penalty kick.
The result leaves Barcelona just five points up on second-place Atletico Madrid, with the two sides set to meet on Sunday at the Camp Nou.
Known more for their aggressive, attacking style, Las Palmas delivered as good of a defensive display as a side can have against Barcelona, led by the likes of Matias Aguirregaray, Ximo and the non-stop running of Etebo.
Ernesto Valverde rolled the dice in slotting Luis Suarez into his starting XI, putting the Uruguayan at risk of missing Sunday’s key clash for Atletico Madrid if he were to receive a yellow card. Usual starters centre-back Gerard Pique, full-back Jordi Alba and midfielder Ivan Rakitc were rested, meaning Thomas Vermaelen, Lucas Digne and Aleix Vidal all got nods.
An early Las Palmas giveaway almost led to Barcelona’s opener, but a Messi and Suarez 2-on-1 was snuffed out by Las Palmas goalkeeper Chichizola. That was followed by a Messi free-kick that needed every bit of Chichizola’s fingertips to push away.
Messi got another crack at a free-kick later in the half after getting fouled from behind by Ximo, and this time the Argentine connected by sending a bullet past Chichizola and into the top right corner of goal to hand Barcelona a 1-0 lead.
True to the style of Paco Jemez-managed team, Las Palmas maintained an attacking mindset and kept the Barcelona defence on their toes, particularly a long ball played into Calleri by Vicente but the Argentine could not convert.
It was still just a one-goal affair as the second-half got underway, and Las Palmas were given a golden opportunity to draw level right after the re-start when Sergi Roberto was whistled for a foul on Aguirregaray on a corner kick.
Coincidentally, the Uruguayan defender still got his head to the ball and had it glance off the post, but a moment later referee Mateu Lahoz blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, much to Barcelona’s dismay. Calleri stepped up to take the spot kick and slammed it into the roof of the net to make it 1-1.
Valverde made his first move shortly before the hour-mark, hauling off Vidal for Philippe Coutinho. Minutes later it was Paulinho yielding his spot to Rakitic. But Barcelona were still having difficulty breaking through a Las Palmas back line that was on-guard by either clearing a deep Barcelona pass in the Las Palmas half or committing a tactical foul.
Valverde’s last switch came with a quarter-hour to go, as the speedy Ousmane Dembele came on for Andres Iniesta, but the Frenchman’s struggles continued as he failed to make a mark.
In the end, Las Palmas’ resolute defending kept Barcelona at bay, as the visitors had to settle for just a point ahead of this Sunday’s key clash against the Colchoneros.