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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

The top match of the day didn't disappoint. Valencia and Barcelona fought out a brilliant tactical battle, directed from the bench by Emery and Guardiola, respectively, and finally resolved by the enormous talent of their players. They shared the points, and created a host of chances in both areas. The first half belonged to Valencia, lethal due to Mathieu's runs and crosses on the left wing, if a bit lucky with the first goal, turned into his own net by Abidal. At half-time it was 2-1, Pedro and Pablo the other scorers.

As ever, no-one could criticise the Barça players. They came back from 1-0 down, and again with the score at 2-1, this time via the Messi / Cesc divine connection. Barça very nearly won the game at the death, but this time, as opposed to the games against Real Sociedad and Milan, they ended the match pretty satisfied.

An electric start

The game between League leaders and Champions started at full throttle. After only a quarter of an hour, Mestalla had seen two goals, both of them scored by a Barça player. The first came from an unlucky Éric Abidal, who turned a Mathieu centre from the left into his own goal, deceiving Valdes, who was coming out to cut out the cross. Own Goal and 1-0 to Valencia. Barça's reaction was immediate. A very short time after kicking off again, Messi threaded a fabulous pass inside the full-back for Pedro, who slid a low shot past Guaita at the near post.

Mathieu, the danger

Soon after Pedro's equaliser, the referee chose not to give a penalty to Messi, after a crude challenge from Rami, who already had a yellow card. That might have changed the course of the match, because soon after Valencia went in front again after a move very similar to the 1-0. Mathieu, again from the left, put in a low cross that came right through to Pablo who, totally unmarked, deceived Valdés to make it 2-1 to the home side. The runs down the left by the French full-back were punishing Barca's 3-man defence, which suffered by not having their usual ball possession.

Mascherano hits the crossbar

Despite going back to a 4-man defence, with Alves dropping to right-back, in the second half, Barça were still not comfortable. With half an hour to go, Guardiola chose to bring on Villa, Adriano, and Thiago, and gambled again on a 3-man defence, now made up of Mascherano, Busquets, and Abidal. Barça's best minutes were to come, and a long-range missile from Mascherano smacked the crossbar.

Cesc appears

Valencia, increasingly attentive to the clock, were playing very deep, and Barça took advantage, and blockaded them in their own area. A fabulous combination, and we've seen several already, between Messi and Cesc, levelled the score at 2-2. Cesc took the pass from Messi, and coolly slotted it past Guaita. Not satisfied with a draw, Barça continued t o push forward. The win got away from them in the end, but only just, as Guardiola's team had a triple opportunity in the 89th minute, that neither Villa, nor Adriano, nor Messi, were able to finish. Bearing in mind how the match went, the point at Valencia is a very good one.

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