- Associated Press - Saturday, December 2, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Barcelona stumbled for the second consecutive week in the Spanish league, being held to 2-2 at home by Celta Vigo on Saturday and giving its nearest challengers more hope.

Barcelona has a five-point lead over second-place Valencia, which plays at mid-table Getafe on Sunday.

Third-place Atletico Madrid moved to within six points by defeating Real Sociedad 2-1 at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, and Real Madrid remained eight points back after being held at Athletic Bilbao to 0-0.

“It’s tough to lose points at home in such an important game,” Barcelona midfielder Paulinho said. “We had plenty of chances.”

Barcelona won 11 of its 13 league matches entering the weekend. Its other setbacks were draws at Atletico Madrid and, last week, at Valencia.

It hadn’t lost points at home in 18 straight league matches, since drawing with Real Madrid nearly a year ago.

“This result will boost our players’ morale,” said Celta coach Juan Carlos Unzue, who used to be Luis Enrique’s assistant at Barcelona. “It shows that we are on the right track.”

Celta, eighth in the standings, has proved a tough opponent for Barcelona, losing only two of its last five matches against the Spanish powerhouse.

It opened the scoring with Iago Aspas’ close-range shot in the 20th minute.

Lionel Messi equalized just two minutes later from inside the area after an assist by Paulinho, taking his league-leading tally to 13 goals.

Luis Suarez put Barcelona ahead after a cross by Jordi Alba in the 61st, becoming Barcelona’s 10th all-time top scorer with 127 goals in 165 games.

Celta evened the match less than 10 minutes later through Maxi Gomez from inside the area after being set up by Aspas in a breakaway. Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti hurt his right hamstring and was replaced. The club said Umtiti could be out for two months.

Barcelona captain Andre Iniesta also had to be substituted because of an apparent injury early in the second half.

“It took a while for us to get into the game, but we eventually took control,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Defender Gerard Pique had a chance to put Barcelona ahead in the 75th, but his close-range shot from a tight angle hit the post after he cleared goalkeeper Ruben Blanco and had an open net.

Messi just missed with a header in the 85th, and a minute later Celta had a chance to score the potential winner but Pione Sisto’s shot from inside the area was stopped by a remarkable foot save by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.


More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

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