Lionel Messi failed in his quest to hit 700 career goals as La Liga leaders Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at Sevilla, blowing open the title race with eight games remaining.
The draw leaves the door open for second-placed Real Madrid to move level on points with Barcelona when they travel to Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Messi’s first-half free-kick which skimmed the bar was the closest Barcelona came to breaching Sevilla’s defence which stayed sturdy throughout the ninety minutes.
Lucas Ocampos came close to scoring for the hosts in the first half but could only hit the crossbar as both sides went into the interval on level terms.
Sevilla, coached by former Real Madrid and Spain coach Julen Lopetegui set up with five at the game and employed a game plan designed to deny the visitors any space.
The plan worked to perfection as Barca huffed and puffed but ultimately failed to fashion any chance of note.
Messi’s free-kick was the closest they came, and although Luis Suarez went close before full-time it was Sevilla that came closest to snatching the win when on-loan Real Madrid defender Sergio Reguilon hit the ball straight at Marc-Andre Ter Stegen when in a great position in added time.
Messi who is one goal away from 700 career goals will have another chance to hit the milestone when the league leaders next play Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, 23 June.