Barcelona kept their unbeaten record in La Liga this season in tact as they came from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw with Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Valencia 1 Barcelona 1
Messi goal not given in first half
Rodrigo gives Los Che the lead
Alba restores parity late on
Both teams remain unbeaten in La Liga
Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde appeared on the verge of suffering his first league defeat at the helm when Rodrigo fired their title rivals in front on the hour mark.
But Jordi Alba rescued his team with a superb 84th-minute equaliser to keep the gap between first and second in the league to four points.
The hosts were well organised as they made life difficult for Barca, who were restricted to shots from range in the first half.
Paulinho had an early sighter as he forced Neto to tip his fierce strike from 25 yards out over the crossbar on four minutes, while Ivan Rakitic fired straight at the keeper from a similar range six minutes later.
The Catalan giants thought they had taken the lead on 30 minutes when Lionel Messi’s first-time shot from just outside the box was spilled by Neto, who scooped the ball back from the line. Replays showed it had crossed the goalline, but went unnoticed by the referee or his assistant.
Neto did better from Messi’s free-kick three minutes later that he clutched at his left post, and the Brazilian was well placed to keep out Andres Iniesta’s curling effort from 19 yards out on 40 minutes.
Luis Suarez also tested the home keeper two minutes later after latching onto a through-ball, in what was the final action of the first half.
There were fewer chances in the second half, but more importantly goals came. After Thomas Vermaelen headed over from a 52nd-minute corner, Los Che opened the scoring eight minutes later.
Jose Gaya was played in on the overlap down the left and his low cross was turned home by Rodrigo at the near post ahead of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Goncalo Guedes threatened again for Marcelino’s men on 71 minutes as he cut inside the left and fired a shot well wide of the right post having lost his balance.
Suarez forced a low save out of Neto five minutes later with a dipping effort after creating space for himself with a sharp turn outside the area, but the Brazilian’s goal was finally breached in the 82nd minute.
Messi spotted the run of Jordi Alba and picked out the left-back with a clipped cross that he acrobatically steered home from an angle on the left.
Both teams had an opportunity to clinch all three points at the death, with Paulinho failing to keep his header down from a corner, before Andreas Pereira surged down the right flank and fizzed a shot wide of the near post in stoppage time.