Copa del Rey holders Barcelona squandered the chance to put one foot in this year's King's Cup semi-final, after they were pegged back to a 2-2 draw with Malaga in their quarter-final first leg clash at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
Tito Vilanova fielded a weakened side to the one that comfortably defeated the same opponents 3-1 in La Liga on Sunday, and the change in personnel told, as the ten-man visitors made a surprise comeback.
It was Malaga who broke the deadlock in the 25th minute, when Manuel Iturra pounced on a mistake by Thiago Alcantara, dispossessing the Barca midfielder before cooly slotting past stand-in goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.
The hosts' reaction was swift, however, and three minutes later Lionel Messi's mazy run from the halfway line and down the right wing prompted another defensive lapse, the Argentine robbing a dithering Weligton and curling a low shot beyond Carlos Kameni in the Malaga goal.
Then, just 90 seconds later, Carles Puyol put Barcelona in front with a sensational looping header from 12-yards out, stooping to meet Alcantara's corner, sending the Catalan faithful into raptures.
After the break, neither side created much, and Malaga's hopes of getting back into the game looked to be over after Ignacio Monreal was shown a straight red card after he fouled Pedro who was breaking through on goal with 15 minutes left on the clock.
But, Barca failed to make their numerical advantage count, and in the 90th minute, Ignacio Camacho unmarked at the back post, met a perfectly weighted Malaga free-kick to volley in at the far post.
With the tie tentatively poised at 2-2, next week's return leg at the Rosaleda stadium will be an intriguing encounter, as both sides look to book a probable semi-final place against Real Madrid, who beat Valencia 2-0 in their first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.
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