PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Mestalla is never an easy place to take points from, but although it again proved a tough venue for Barça this Sunday, the league leaders came away with a valuable draw from a game with few chances in either box after a Messi penalty just before the break equalised Banega’s opener.

The draw rounds off a week with two difficult away trips which Barça have come out of unbeaten and have also sees them stretch their lead over Real Madrid to 16 points.

Few chances

This fixture is guaranteed to produce an intense game of football and Valencia began the match harrying Barça high up the pitch to stop them bringing the ball out under control. The tactic worked and neither team made any clear chances early on, with Guaita and Valdés reduced to virtual spectators of the high pressure duel in midfield.

Banega and Messi on target

Valencia’s first real chance on 33 minutes ended in a goal when Banega took advantage of a poor clearance from a Joao Pereira cross to fire past Valdes. The Portuguese player was also involved in Barça’s equaliser five minutes later, bringing down Pedro in the box. Messi made no mistake from the spot and the teams went in level at the break.

Cesc miss

The second half began where the first had left off, with plenty of midfield tussle, but few clear cut chances. Barça looked to be paying the price of their midweek exertions and lacked their usual sparkle, though Cesc had a good chance to give them the lead when he was set up by Messi, only to shoot inches wide.

Heroics from Valdés

Even so, the visitors looked in control as the game entered the last 20 minutes and David Villa, who received a great ovation when he came on on 72 minutes, missed great chance to wrap up the game. In the end though, it was Valdes who proved the hero with a brilliant last minute save from Soldado to ensure the leaders continue to chalk up the points.