Barcelona battle for draw at MestallaSeptember 22, 2011
FC Barcelona drew 2-2 with Valencia at the Estadio Mestalla on Wednesday night in a frenetic and fast-paced encounter. Valencia took the lead twice, first through an Abidal own goal, and then winger Pablo Hernández, but Barcelona fought back, with Pedro and Cesc getting on the scoresheet.
Barcelona’s evening got off to a difficult start; on the ten-minute mark Valencia winger Jérémy Mathieu drove down the left flank and delivered a teasing cross that Abidal could only turn push past Valdés despite not being under any real pressure. It was an unfortunate blow, but Barça’s response was almost instant.
A fine exhibition of quick passing and movement saw the ball flicked by Cesc to Lionel Messi at the edge of the area. The Argentine forward spotted the run of Pedro Rodríguez and slipped a deft pass between two defenders to the left side of the six-yard box for his teammate to equalise.
Moments later Barcelona could have had a penalty when Adil Rami brought down Messi on the very edge of the penalty box. The French international made no contact with the ball, but somehow escaped punishment for what looked like a clear foul just inside the area.
Valencia were soon causing Barça problems again, pressuring high up the pitch. Once again Mathieu surged down the left side, beating Mascherano and producing yet another dangerous cross. This time Abidal deflected the ball away from goal but only into the path of Pablo Hernández who made no mistake with his finish.
The away side might even have been two goals behind when the move was replicated for a third time, but to Valdés’ relief Soldado somehow managed to nudge Mathieu’s ball past the near post.
Up to half time Guardiola had opted for a three-man defence, but after the break Alves took his place at right-back after starting in midfield. As a result Barcelona looked far more comfortable and faced few defensive scares as the match wore on. Still, Valencia offered plenty of intensity, perhaps best typified by industrious central midfielder Éver Banega.
Barça’s first real sight of goal in the second half came after 20 minutes, when Mascherano crashed a 30 yard shot off the angle of the post and crossbar, with Gaita completely beaten.
Messi was then released by Thiago, but couldn’t quite bring the ball under his spell. Seconds later though, diminutive dynamo produced a perfect chipped pass to find Cesc who made no mistake to take his tally for the season to four goals in four league games.
Messi nearly conjured a match-winning assist late on, when he confounded the entire Valencia defence with a reverse pass for substitute David Villa, but the striker’s shot was well saved. There was still time for a late penalty shout, once again from Messi, but in the end Barcelona had to settle for a hard-earned point at a difficult venue.
1-0, Abidal (own goal) (min 11)
1-1, Pedro (min 13)
2-1, Pablo (min 23)
2-2, Cesc (min 76)