Barca held at Valencia
Ever Benega’s 33rd minute strike and Lionel Messi’s 39th minute penalty were the only goals scored at the Mestalla Stadium as Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by Valencia.
Roberto Soldado’s early impact proved troublesome for Barcelona’s central-defence pair. Javier Mascherano, who was preferred ahead of Carles Puyol, seemed to be struggling to contain the Spanish international and it didn’t take long until the Argentinian was shown a yellow card for clutching on the forward, but the resulting free-kick was well saved by returning goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Benega then finished off a cross from the right flank after he was picked unmarked in the Barca box to make it 1-0 to the home side in the 33rd minute.
But Barca responded immediately with Messi’s 39th minute penalty after streaming a neat passage of passes before Pereira fouled Pedro for a penalty.
The equaliser saw Messi extend his record to streak by scoring in his 12th consecutive Spanish League game.
Andres Guardado tried to fire Valencia up with a fine attempt in the 45th minute but Valdes parried the effort for a corner.
In the second half, Fabregas and Messi looked to cause an early concern for Valencia as they managed to find spaces between the defence, but again poor finishing let them down.
‘The Chotos’ sat back and tried to catch the log leaders on the counter, and it almost paid off when Soldado managed to sneak ahead of Masherano, only to direct his header inches wide.
It was again on the counter when Canales’curled effort from outside the box forced Valdes to an amicable save for a corner in the 67th minute.
Messi’s through ball managed to find Fabregas who hit the side net. Fabregas then made way for David Villa, who made his 100thBarca appearance, coming on against his former club.
Villa almost made a quick impact when Daniel Alves’ cross from the right found him unmarked just outside the penalty area in the 71st minute, but the veteran pushed his effort wide with the on-running goalkeeper beaten.
The reminder of the action saw Valencia dominating play, with Soldado, Tino Costa and Canales all denied by Valdes’ brilliance in Barcelona’s goals.