Ernesto Valverde felt Barcelona lacked spark after requiring a last-minute equaliser to claim a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid.
Ousmane Dembele netted in the dying moments at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday as champions Barca clung onto top spot in LaLiga.
Diego Costa’s 77th-minute header – igniting a previously dull game – had looked like earning Atletico a win that would have taken them above their rivals to the summit.
Manager Valverde said on the club’s website: “We tried to take the weight of the game, controlling their counter-attacks and creating danger, but they defended very well and together. We lacked an offensive spark.
“We didn’t generate as many goalscoring opportunities as in the last league match.”
Valverde was at least pleased to see Dembele on the scoresheet again. The Frenchman’s future remains the subject of speculation as he battles to establish himself at the Nou Camp following last year’s £96.8million move from Borussia Dortmund.
Valverde said: “Dembele is very good and has scored important goals. I hope he will help us a lot.”
Midfielder Sergio Busquets, who made his 500th Barca appearance, had no issues with the result.
He said: “It was a difficult match because we didn’t have spaces, but we tried to the end.
“Barça were the only team that looked for the win, but the draw has been the most fair result.”
On his own landmark, the 30-year-old said: “I’m very proud to have reached 500 matches, winning titles for many years and feeling important within the team.”
Atletico coach Diego Simeone cursed his side’s luck after Dembele’s low shot went through Jan Oblak’s legs and deflected in off Lucas Hernandez.
Simeone said on the Atletico website: “It was a tough, tactical game in which neither team had many chances to score. There weren’t counter-attacks to take advantage of the spaces or possession to hurt us in small spaces.
“It was a game of details. Details matter in a game between two big teams. We took the lead and in the end we needed a bit more luck for that ball not to go between Oblak and Lucas’ legs.”