Saturday, March 23, 2019 | ePaper
Barcelona held at Valencia as Sevilla go top in Spain
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi reacts after failing to score against Valencia during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Barcelona, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain on Sunday.
Sevilla are the surprise leaders in La Liga after Lionel Messi could only rescue a draw for Barcelona away to Valencia on Sunday.
Barca started the day at the top of the pile and then Atletico Madrid enjoyed a couple of hours at the summit after edging past Real Betis at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Sevilla, however, usurped them both by beating 10-man Celta Vigo and Barca were unable to reclaim the lead in the late kick-off, held by Valencia to a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla.
It means Ernesto Valverde's side are a point behind Sevilla and without a league victory now in four matches, a dip that comes in stark contrast to their enthralling triumph over Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Messi, mesmeric at Wembley, was on target again, his driven shot into the corner cancelling out a bizarre opener for Valencia, scored after just 78 seconds.
Ezequiel Garay claimed the final touch but Daniel Parejo's corner had been flicked on by Geoffrey Kondogbia, missed by Thomas Vermaelen and skimmed through off Gerard Pique's back.
Philippe Coutinho should have won it for Barcelona in the second half but took too long to pull the trigger and Jose Gaya was able to make the block.
"When we don't win we always think of it as two points lost," Valverde said.
"After Leo's goal, we tried everything but they defended well and we couldn't get the goal we wanted."
For Valencia, now unbeaten in six, this was another step in the right direction, even if they are finding it difficult to turn draws into wins. They move up to 14th.
"Leaving Barca for 90 minutes practically without a chance means that we have worked very well," Valencia coach Marcelino said.