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Draw with Celta a blow to Barça’s title hopes

Vigo, Spain, Jun 27 (efe-epa).- Celta’s Iago Aspas scored with two minutes left in regulation here Saturday to secure a 2-2 draw with Barcelona that could prove fatal to the Catalan club’s chances of outlasting Real Madrid for the LaLiga title.

While Barça are top of the league with 69 points from 32 matches, the Blancos trail by just a point and will play their 32nd game on Sunday against last-place Espanyol.

The two clubs that dominate Spanish soccer were running neck-and-neck when the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus.

And though Real Madrid have won all of their matches since the re-start on June 8, Barcelona have now dropped points for a second time.

If there was a bright spot for the Blaugrana in Vigo, it was the play of Luis Suarez, who accounted for both of the goals, his first since what then appeared to be a season-ending knee injury in January.

The visitors started brightly and only the post prevented Gerard Pique from putting Barça up 1-0 in the 5th minute off a Lionel Messi corner kick.

Instead, the opening goal came on another Barcelona set piece 15 minutes later.

The Catalan side won a free kick not far from goal and Messi stepped up to take it. But instead of shooting, the Argentine served up a cross for Suarez in the box and the Uruguayan headed-in past Celta goalkeeper Ruben Blanco.

Celta, who would end the game with just 33 percent possession, mounted a vigorous reaction and nearly equalized on an ill-advised foray off the line by Barça keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, followed by chances for Brais Mendez and Aspas.

A takeaway in midfield five minutes into the second half allowed Celta to pull level with a goal from Fyodor Smolov, the first conceded by Ter Stegen since LaLiga returned to action.

As the contest entered the final quarter, Suarez scored his second of the night to restore the lead for Barcelona, again with an assist from Messi.

Ter Stegen denied Nolito in the 80th minute to preserve the narrow advantage, but could do nothing to deny Aspas on a free kick in the 88th.

And the German keeper was called on again in the dying seconds of stoppage time to prevent Nolito from stealing all 3 points for Celta, who are 16th with 34 points, 8 above the drop zone. EFE dmg/dr

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