Valencia’s newly-appointed manager Gary Neville was watching from the stands as his team put in a brave performance against the league leaders Barcelona, maintaining the unbeaten home record at Mestalla with a hard-fought 1-1 draw.
The away side was dominant throughout the proceedings with 70% of possession on their part, but Luis Enrique’s team will rue the missed chances, as they got punished in the end by brave Valencia, who were undeterred in their efforts to get back in the game following Luis Suarez’s goal at the hour-mark.
Barcelona opened the game with their usual playmaking style not allowing too much space for the hosts to develop their own play. Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were once again on top of their game and all three of them had good chances of scoring in the first half. Lacking the cutting edge in the finish despite their dominance, Barcelona had only one shot on target in the first 45 minutes.
The visitors continued to press after the interval and at the 59 minute mark Messi did great to slip the ball through to Luis Suarez, who unleashed a magnificent shot from a tight angle inside the right post.
The Calatans could have increased their lead through Neymar on 74 minutes when the Brazilian made a good run into the box, but his shot from the edge went just wide off the right post.
Valencia didn’t give up and with ten minutes on the clock Rodrigo De Paul announced the equalizer with a promising opportunity from the edge of the penalty area stopped by Claudio Bravo. However, only a couple of minutes later it was Santi Mina who latched on to a pass from Pablo Alcacer to unleash a stunning thump into the top of the net.
Barcelona tried to get back in the game through Lionel Messi who tried his shot from around 25 meters out, but Jaume was spot on with his save to deny a great free-kick effort.
Gary Neville will have been pleased with what he could see from the stands, and here are some key points we would like to emphasise from tonight’s game.
Los Che proved to be tough to beat, managing to maintain their unbeaten home record which has now gone up to seven league games without a loss.
Valencia have survived a one-sided first half thanks to the fact that Barcelona’s trio fantastico misfired all of their goal chances in the first 45 minutes.
The hosts attempted to catch the Catalans on the breaks, but have ultimately failed to exploit loads of space for most of the proceedings.
Neville will be pleased with his team’s resolve and determination as Los Che waited for the closing stages to open up and create many problems for Luis Enrique’s troops and proving to be a highly resilient side.
The hosts have conceded only 11 goals in their 14 La Liga games this season.
Only Atletico Madrid have allowed less (6) and solid defending is perhaps the greatest strength of Gary Neville’s new team.
With Jose Gaya at the forefront, Valencia’s backline has did their best to annihilate the threats from the most prolific trio in Europe.
Their efforts were worthy for much of the game, despite Ruben Vezo’s struggles to hold on to fantastic Neymar.
Interim manager Salvador Gonzales showcased the fighting spirit and a great deal of bravery, when he decided to throw all of his cards on the table with the introduction of Santi Mina and Rodrigo de Paul.
His timely changes were crucial for the finals result and the fans were ultimately content and proud of their team’s fighting spirit.
The attacking duo gave Los Che much needed change in pace, and it was exactly the 19-year-old Spanish forward Santi Mina who claimed the bragging rights with his late equalizer.
Gary Nevill will have the proper chance of building up on the attacking potential of Valencia’s young squad, but his first task in charge will be to change the mentality of his players, who waited for too long before going strong against the champions.
The Brazilian was once again one of the most prominent players for Barcelona tonight.
Neymar tied Ruben Vezo in knots, with Valencia right back being unable to handle the Ballon d’Or nominee for much of the first half. Agile in his movement, Neymar created a lot of problems to the opposition, and was unlucky to get his name on the score sheet.
In fact, the game at Mestalla was the first La Liga game since the 26th of September that Neymar failed to score or assist a goal for Barcelona.
He remains in the run for the Pichichi trophy though, having scored 14 league goals this term.
Suarez deserved Ballon d’Or nomination
The Uruguay striker would’ve thought he ended the game with his sublime finish from close range and tight angle. Suarez was put to a lot of pressure from Abdenour, who tried to wind up Barcelona forward, but was ultimately outdone by the 28-year-old striker.
Luis Suarez has tonight scored his 13th goals of the season and he has a fantastic year behind him.
There has been much talk of his Ballon d’Or omission, as the Uruguay striker scored as many goals as Cristiano Ronaldo in 2015, while he also picked up a number of trophies last season, most notably the UEFA Champions League crown.
Tonight’s performance was just another argument in favour of the Uruguayan footballer.
VALENCIA: Jaume 6.5 – Vezo 7, Santos 7.5, Abdenour 6.5, Gaya 7 – Danilo 7, Parejo 7.5, Perez 6 (Bakkali 7) – Mina 7.5 (Tropi -), Alcacer 7, Paul 6.5 (Piatti 6).
Unused subs: Ryan, Diallo, Villalba, Gil.
BARCELONA: Bravo 6.5 – Alves 7, Pique6.5, Mascherano 6.5, Alba 6.5 – Rakitic 7, Busquets 6.5, Iniesta 6.5 – Messi 7.5, Suarez 7.5, Neymar 7.5.
Unused subs: Vermaelen, Adriano, Stegen, Bartra, Ramirez, Samper, Haddadi.
Referee: Santiago Jaime Latre
Other results this evening:
Real Madrid 4-1 Getafe
Granada 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Deportivo La Coruna 1-1 Sevilla
Real Betis 1-1 Celta de Vigo