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    Don't panic, Barcelona coach tells his beaten footballers

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    riley_.freeman

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    Don't panic, Barcelona coach tells his beaten footballers

    Post by riley_.freeman on Mon Mar 02 2009, 07:20

    Don't panic, Barcelona coach tells his beaten footballers

    Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola insists that he will not press the panic button despite the Spanish giants suffering back-to-back league defeats.

    Less than a month ago, Barcelona were coasting to the La Liga title with a healthy 12-point lead over bitter rivals Real Madrid, thanks to a run of 22 championship games without defeat.

    But on Sunday, they twice surrendered the lead to lose 4-3 to Atletico Madrid, a heartbreaking setback coming on the back of a shock defeat against relegation-haunted Espanyol and a 1-1 Champions League draw at Lyon.

    "We have had a big advantage and Real Madrid have cut it back by eight points in three weeks. But we will continue forward," said Guardiola whose team's lead at the top is now just four points.

    "We lost a game which was up and down, very exciting and I have to give credit to Atletico but we will now continue as before.

    "Atletico play a very direct style of football and it caused problems. It was a game with plenty of chances, typical of an Atletico Madrid versus Barcelona game."

    Thierry Henry put Barcelona ahead with a fine strike from 25 yards after 18 minutes before Lionel Messi, on the half-hour mark, produced a trademark dribble before finishing in style to make it 2-0.

    Diego Forlan brought Atletico back into the match with a spectacular 30-yard drive before Sergio Aguero got the first of his brace after 56 minutes to level at 2-2.

    Barcelona re-established their lead when Eidur Gudjohnsen unselfishly played in Henry for his second in the 73rd minute.

    But Atletico were not finished and Forlan again scored, this time from the penalty spot in the 80th minute, before Aguero struck in the 89th minute to win the match.

    Atletico coach Abel Resino, whose team occupy fifth place, singled out his players' battling qualities.

    "Against a good side we had a first half where we maintained our composure despite the onslaught. Each day I feel as though we are getting better and the team has shown character," he said.

    "We never eased off despite being 2-0 down. Aguero was sensational and his attitude has been contagious.

    Meanwhile, the pressure is growing on Valencia coach Unai Emery as his side followed their midweek UEFA Cup elimination with a 2-1 home defeat by Valladolid.

    After a bright start to the season, Valencia have tumbled to sixth and have now gone more than a month without a win.

    Villarreal, in fourth, failed to capitalise on Valencia's problems and build up a five-point gap over the teams below them as they could only draw 2-2 at home against Real Betis having gone into a two-goal lead.

    Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini accepted that Betis deserved a draw.

    "We were close to going 3-1 ahead when Betis came to life in the second half," he said.

    "There are a lot of games still and we do not know who we will be competing against for a place in the Champions League. Barcelona and Madrid are on their own in the fight for the title but we are fighting with teams like Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Valencia for a place in the Champions League."

    On Saturday, Real Madrid reduced the gap on Barcelona when substitute Guti and veteran skipper Raul scored in a 2-0 win at Espanyol.

    Real coach Juande Ramos singled out Guti for special praise.

    "We knew that the game was not going to be easy but we were very motivated," said Ramos, whose team had been stunned by a home midweek Champions League defeat to Liverpool.

    "There was little difference between the teams in the first half but after the break Guti changed the match."

    A Frederic Kanoute brace helped Sevilla come from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao, who had gone ahead through Inaki Gabilondo, in a dress-rehearsal of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday.

    It consolidated Sevilla in third spot but still 13 points behind leaders Barcelona.

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