Valencia, Dec 6 (IANS) New Valencia coach Gary Neville watched from the stands of the Mestalla Stadium as his side scored a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at home against FC Barcelona and deny the league leaders a win which would have kept them six points clear in La Liga. Santi Mina was the hero as his 85th minute equaliser cancelled out Luis Suarez’s opener for Barcelona in a very intense game on Saturday, reports Xinhua.
Against a well drilled Valencia team who were clearly motivated by Neville’s presence, Barcelona created enough chances to have won the game by half time. Neymar fired wildly over after five minutes when he should have scored and a last ditch tackle denied Lionel Messi, who then shot straight at Valencia keeper Jaume when he was set up by Neymar.
Not to be left out, Suarez also looked to get into the action, but his far post volley went over the bar, before Santos clipped the ball from off his feet when he looked certain to score. Neymar and Alba combined on the left, but the final ball either just evaded its target or was crowded out by a packed Valencia defence.
Meanwhile the home side looked to play on the break, but Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo didn’t have a shot to save in the first half. Suarez was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch after appearing to stamp on Aymen Abdennour in an off the ball incident which the referee didn’t see early in the second half. But luck was on his side and it was the Uruguayan who opened the scoring just ahead of the hour, after swapping passes with Messi and then beating goalie Jaume on his near post.
Barcelona looked content to try and control the ball and let the clock run down, although Neymar sent another effort wide after a mazy run, before Rodrigo De Paul was guilty of wasting Valencia’s best chance by shooting tamely at Claudio Bravo with 10 minutes remaining. The home side was level with five minutes remaining when Paco Alcacer controlled to set up for Santi Mina to score from just inside the penalty area. Earlier in the day, Real Madrid enjoyed an easy 4-1 win at home to Getafe.
Karim Benzema scored twice before halftime, while Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo also netted before the break. The game which had begun with boos aimed at coach Rafael Benitez and Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, as a result of the club’s disqualification from the King’s Cup knockout competition. The game was over as a contest in the second half despite Alexis heading a consolation goal for the visitors 20 minutes from the end. Atletico Madrid also claimed an important win to remain second as Diego Simeone’s side won 2-0 away to Granada thanks to goals from Diego Godin and Antoine Griezmann, who scored his seventh league goal of the season.