Neymar loses cool as Barcelona miss chance to go top in shock Malaga loss
Barcelona missed their chance to move level with Real Madrid at the top of the table as they were beaten 2-0 by Malaga on Saturday at La Rosaleda.
Sandro Ramirez, allowed to leave Barca for free last summer, opened the scoring in the first half before Neymar saw red after the break for a second yellow card. With Luis Enrique's team searching for a late equaliser, Jony capped a 90th-minute counterattack to seal all three points for the home side.
Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Atletico Madrid earlier Saturday, so Barca have only lost one point in the title race. Other than that ...
There were plenty. Jeremy Mathieu looks to be on the last legs of his career at the club, Andre Gomes appears lost and all signs point to Barcelona missing out on top spot because of the quality of their squad players; while Madrid's have excelled, Barca's have largely flopped. It was also disappointing to see Neymar take a few steps back, rising to the bait after withstanding so much in a mature manner so far this campaign. The way he picked up his first yellow card will also bring questions.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- In his defence, Luis Enrique had little room to manoeuvre here. Ivan Rakitic and Gerard Pique were suspended, and Aleix Vidal, Arda Turan and Rafinha are all injured. With that in mind, maybe he should not have been so daring with his lineup, though, leaving Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto on the bench. Questions may also be asked about the decision to switch back to a 4-3-3 formation, although the manager may argue personnel dictated that move.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Was beaten far too easily for the first goal from Sandro. Made a couple of routine stops, with Malaga wasteful on a number of second-half counterattacks.
DF Javier Mascherano, 6 -- Gave everything in defence and attack, taking the necessary risks as Barcelona desperately tried to prevent themselves from slipping further behind Madrid. Created a golden chance for Roberto in the closing stages.
DF Jeremy Mathieu, 3 -- Was caught trying to step up and play Sandro offside, getting it drastically wrong and allowing the La Masia product a free run on goal. Luis Enrique reacted by removing him at the break and bringing on Roberto.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 5 -- Was on the losing side in La Liga for the first time in a Barcelona shirt. Before this defeat, he'd played in 18 games and won all 18. The run is over.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- Was back in the side after missing out against Sevilla. Made one top pass for a great chance for Luis Suarez early on, but appeared to be lacking rhythm after being left out so frequently since the switch to a back three.
MF Sergio Busquets, 5 -- Dropped his levels again here after a string of good performances. That was more a team matter, though, than an individual one. Will get a rest in midweek, as he is suspended for the Champions League meeting with Juventus.
MF Denis Suarez, 5 -- Was unlucky to be hauled off at half-time given how Gomes had played but offered little in a lost Barcelona midfield during the first 45 minutes.
MF Andre Gomes, 4 -- Put in another out-of-sorts performance. Looked off the pace and sluggish when played in perfectly by Messi in the first half and was easily manoeuvred off the ball by Roberto Rosales.
FW Lionel Messi, 6 -- Produced all of his best chances from free kicks, with two sailing over the bar and the third driven into the wall. There was one brilliant piece of play to set up Gomes and a couple of decent runs, but he struggled to have an effect against a Malaga side at the top of their game.
FW Luis Suarez, 5 -- Shook off an early injury to complete the match, but may wish he hadn't bothered. Missed a couple of good chances, including one in the 15th minute, when he was denied by Carlos Kameni after a fine Alba ball.
FW Neymar, 4 -- Has looked so much more mature this campaign, but lost his cool at a key moment. Was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Diego Llorente, earning him his first red for Barca (and Barca's first of the season). As things stand, he will only miss the Real Sociedad match, but his gesture to the home fans as he left the pitch could earn him an additional game ban. Barca play Madrid after La Real.
MF Andres Iniesta, 6 -- Was tasked with changing the game from the bench but could not have the same effect he had at Celta Vigo earlier in the season, even if Barca lost there as well. Tried to take control and find space, but there was nothing to be found.
DF Sergi Roberto, 7 -- Came on at half-time at right-back and was one of Barca's best players going forward. Should have been given a penalty when he was fouled by Charles, but the referee gave a free kick on the edge of the box. Also had a great chance late on, but shot straight at Kameni.
FW Paco Alcacer, 5 -- Was Luis Enrique's final throw of the dice, but could find no space in a crowded final third and had no chances.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.