Barcelona dropped two points at the Camp Nou but it could have been worse, as Lionel Messi once again was the hero for the Blaugrana.
The star forward scored twice on either side of halftime, first from the penalty spot and the second from outside the box as Barcelona came back to draw Valencia, 2-2 on Saturday afternoon. Messi also took a knock to his thigh, raising doubts on his fitness ahead of Barcelona’s Copa Del Rey semifinal first leg on Wednesday against arch rivals Real Madrid.
[READ: Sean Dyche hammers officiating]
Twice, Valencia made a slow Barcelona backline pay on the counter attack within the game’s first half hour. First, Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno drove through the middle of the field untouched before laying off a perfectly-weighted pass into the box for Kevin Gameiro to smash home. Then, in the 30th minute, Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto bowled over Daniel Wass in the box, giving up a penalty kick. Dani Parejo stepped up and confidently slotted home to give Valencia the shock 2-0 lead.
It only took five minutes for Barcelona to pull one back. After Nelson Semedo was tripped up in the box, Messi stepped up to the spot and sent Valencia goallkeeper Neto the wrong way to make it 2-1. Messi forced a save from Neto a minute into the second half, and he finally found the net once again around a crowd of defenders in the 64th minute on a curling left-footed strike.
With the draw, Barcelona remains atop the La Liga standings with 50 points, six above Atletico Madrid in second-place, though Atleti has a game-in-hand. Real Madrid is currently 11 points back, with a game-in-hand as well.
Elsewhere in Spain on Saturday, Real Sociedad its second consecutive win over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque derby. Both teams featured new coaches since the last meeting but the result was the same, with Sociedad winning, 2-1, over Bilbao. Mikel Oyarzabal, who scored two goals in the last meeting, scored the opener again for Sociedad, and Willian Jose added a second over the poor Bilbao squad. Raul Garcia turned in a rebound late in the match to make it interesting for Bilbao but they ran out of time.
In Saturday’s late match, relegation-threatened Celta Vigo shocked fourth-place Sevilla with a 1-0 victory. Mexican National Team defender Nestor Araujo helped keep a clean sheet for Celta. Also, Levante and Getafe played to a scoreless draw.