Barcelona were held to a 1-1 home draw by Atletico Madrid on
Thursday, a result which leaves the champions three points behind
league leaders Sevilla going into the two-week Christmas break.
Ronaldinho put Barca in front four minutes before halftime with
a free kick, whipping the ball across the face of the wall and into
the opposite corner from a metre outside the area.
Atletico's teenage striker Sergio Aguero equalised for the
visitors when he clipped the ball past keeper Victor Valdes with
the outside of his foot on the hour.
Sevilla top the table on 37 points from 16 games after their 4-0
drubbing of Deportivo Coruna on Wednesday, Barca follow on 34 but
have a game in hand.
Real Madrid, who slumped to a 3-0 defeat at home to Recreativo
Huelva on Wednesday, are a further two points back in third, four
clear of Atletico.
Barca, still smarting from their 1-0 defeat to Internacional in
the final of the Club World Cup last weekend, had the better of the
opening exchanges as they deprived Atletico of possession and
flicked the ball around the midfield.
Deco and Xavi both went close with long-range efforts, but the
visitors managed to hold firm as looked to play on the
Barca were finding it difficult to find a way through the
congested Atletico defence, but they were given a break just before
halftime when they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the
Atletico keeper Leo Franco agonised over the organisation of his
defensive wall, but Ronaldinho outwitted the Argentine with a
sublime strike over his team mate Juliano Belletti and into the
The expertly taken free kick took the forward's tally to 12
goal's this season, two behind leading scorer Frederic Kanoute of
Atletico lived up to their reputation as Barca's bogey team,
however, when they hit back 15 minutes into the second half.
Aguero outpaced Barca central defenders Lilian Thuram and Carles
Puyol to latch on to a fine through ball from Peter Luccin before
clipping his shot into the corner of the net with the outside of
Barca, who had lost three of their previous four games against
Atletico, pressed hard for the final half hour but were unable to
break down the rugged opposition defence.
(China Daily via Reuters December 22, 2006)