Barca held at Valencia, Benzema double rallies Madrid
New Valencia coach Gary Neville watched on from the stands as Santi Mina’s late equaliser handed his side a shock 1-1 draw at home to European champions Barcelona.
Luis Suarez had put the visitors into a controversial lead as he appeared to be offside before slotting in at the near post, but Valencia’s work rate was rewarded when Mina fired into the top corner five minutes from time on Saturday.
Real Madrid are now just four points behind Barca as they bounced back from their embarrassing elimination from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player in midweek with Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all on target in their 4-1 thrashing of Getafe.
However, Real remain third, two points behind Atletico Madrid, after goals from Diego Godin and Antoine Griezmann handed Diego Simeone’s men a 2-0 win at Granada. Neville doesn’t officially take charge until Sunday, leaving Valencia in the hands of caretaker boss Voro and his brother Phil Neville and the depleted hosts put up a brave fight against the superior quality of the European champions.
“There is nothing to reproach the team for,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
“We played a complete game at a very difficult place to come, we dominated the whole game and had by far the most chances.
“We weren’t rewarded for all the effort we put in, but defensively Valencia played very well.”
Barcelona should have had the game wrapped up by half-time, but the star front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal.
Messi spooned the first chance over from Neymar’s fine cross before the latter ballooned the ball into the stands with just Jaume Domenech to beat. More brilliance on the left wing from Neymar teed up Messi once more, but on his weaker right foot he fired straight at Domenech.
Suarez then fluffed his lines when he tried to square for Neymar when clean through only to overhit his cross and see the ball fly to safety.
Moments later Suarez was denied a tap-in as Aderlan Santos got just enough of a deflection on Jordi Alba’s cross to take the ball away from Suarez.