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Leo Messi scored for Barcelona, but Deportivo La Coruna rallied to a 2-2 draw Saturday.

By AP NEWS
December 12, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona missed a chance to temporarily increase its Spanish league lead when it conceded two late goals and drew with Deportivo La Coruna 2-2 at home on Saturday.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring with a curling free kick before halftime, and set up Ivan Rakitic's powerful strike from outside the area after an hour. Then Deportivo striker Lucas Perez scored, and set up the equalizer by Alex Bergantinos after a late counterattack to shock the crowd at the Camp Nou.

The result extended Barcelona's winless streak to three matches, and gave rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid — which play their games on Sunday — precious chance to make up ground in the 15th round.

Barcelona has a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid, which plays against Athletic Bilbao. Real Madrid, which plays at fifth-place Villarreal, was five points behind Barcelona. Deportivo, unbeaten in six games and with only one away loss this season, was sixth.

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"We had everything under control until the 30-minute mark of the second half," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "Deportivo had a brave strategy, and it worked out for them. It isn't the result that we deserved but it shows that we have to be plugged in for all 90 minutes."

It was Barcelona's last game before traveling to Japan for the Club World Cup. Its semifinal will be on Thursday against either America of Mexico or Guangzhou Evergrande of China. Barcelona is chasing its third club world title after 2009 and 2011.

Enrique decided not to rest his regular starters, with Neymar being the only absence because of a groin injury that is also likely to keep him sidelined at the Club World Cup. Neymar has six of Barcelona's last 14 league goals, and remains the competition top-scorer with 14.

Barcelona dominated from the start but had difficulties getting past the Deportivo defense until Messi broke the deadlock with his remarkable free kick. Lux stretched his left arm but could not get close to the ball as it curled over the wall and into the top corner.

The foul happened when Luis Suarez was brought down just outside the area. Suarez, who scored in his previous eight games, had a goal disallowed for offside in the second half.

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​Messi set up Rakitic with a quick pass at the top of the area, but Deportivo found a way to get back into the game after Barcelona squandered good chances, especially through Suarez and substitute Munir El Haddadi.

Perez had a goal disallowed because of offside in the 75th, but two minutes later he found the net from inside the area after being left unmarked by the Barcelona defense. The equalizer came in a fast counterattack after Perez controlled the ball near midfield and sent a perfect through ball to Bergantinos, who shot into the far corner.

"We just didn't put away the game," Rakitic said.

Deportivo earned a 2-2 draw at Barcelona late last season, also after trailing by two goals and also with a goal by Perez. The result at the time was crucial to help the team escape relegation.

"I'll keep having great memories of playing at the Camp Nou," Perez said. "The reaction of our team after going down 2-0 today was incredible."

Barcelona was coming off a 1-1 draw at Valencia in the league last weekend, when it also conceded a late equalizer. It also drew with Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 in Germany in its final group-stage game in the Champions League on Wednesday. Barcelona had already secured first place in the group, and Enrique rested some of the regular starters, including Suarez.

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