A resilient Valencia held Barcelona to a frustrating 1-1 draw in their La Liga clash at the Mestalla on Sunday.
The hosts set out to deny Barcelona space from the outset and were rewarded on 33 minutes when Ever Banega controlled a poor Gerard Pique clearance and rifled the ball home.
However, Barca were handed a route back into the game when Valencia defender Joao Pereira clumsily brought down Pedro inside the box in the 39th minute.
Lionel Messi stepped up to equalise from the penalty spot and take his scoring run to 12 consecutive matches.
Both sides pressed for a winner in the second half, with Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes pulling off a stunning double save late on to ensure his side left with a point.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid overcame Real Betis 1-0 at the Estadio Vicente Calderon to move to within nine points of Barcelona.
A Diego Costa strike just after the hour was enough to see Diego Simeone’s side over the line as they took full advantage of Barca’s draw.
Meanwhile, Sevilla kept their European aspirations alive with a 2-1 home win over Rayo Vallecano.
Ivan Rakitic scored in first-half injury time to send Sevilla into the break ahead but Vallecano levelled six minutes after play restarted when Alejandro Dominguez converted from the penalty spot.
The home side hit back just three minutes later thanks to Alvaro Negredo’s 10th goal of the season, which proved to be the difference between the sides.
In the day’s other games, Real Sociedad compounded Mallorca’s relegation woes with a thumping 3-0 win, while Malaga and Real Zaragoza played out a 1-1 draw at the La Rosaleda.
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