Neville sees Valencia's fighting spirit as they hold Barcelona

Valencia's Santi Mina (left) celebrating his goal with team-mate Paco Alcacer, who set up the equaliser for the home team. Luiz Suarez (3rd from left) had put Barcelona, who wasted several chances, ahead.
Valencia's Santi Mina (left) celebrating his goal with team-mate Paco Alcacer, who set up the equaliser for the home team. Luiz Suarez (3rd from left) had put Barcelona, who wasted several chances, ahead. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Valencia fought back from a goal down to rescue a point in Saturday's 1-1 La Liga draw at home with champions Barcelona.

And the players showed new manager Gary Neville, watching from the stands, that they have the fighting spirit that could help turn their season around.

The former Manchester United and England defender was a surprise choice to succeed Nuno Espirito Santo at the stuttering Singapore-owned club.

The Portuguese left "by mutual consent" following the previous weekend's defeat at Sevilla.

Neville is joining his brother Phil, an assistant coach, and was set to officially take charge yesterday to prepare for Wednesday's Champions League game at home to Lyon.

He joined club chairman Chan Lay Hoon at the VIP enclosure at the Mestalla stadium for Barca's visit and saw Santi Mina level the scores four minutes from time with a brilliant finish.

Luis Suarez had put the visitors into a controversial lead.

He appeared to be offside before slotting in at the near post just before the hour.

It was a gritty performance from Valencia, who were chasing the ball for long periods but never gave up, and all the more impressive as they were severely depleted by injuries and suspensions.

"We knew that if it was 0-0 or we were losing by a single goal, this team had the guts to get a result," Mina told Spanish television.

His equaliser took Valencia to 20 points after 14 games. "It's a point that feels good after what we have been through recently."

Barcelona should have had the game wrapped up by half-time but the front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal.

"We lacked that ease that we normally have to finish our chances in the final third," said Barcelona manager Luis Enrique.

"There is nothing to reproach the team for. We weren't rewarded for all the effort we put in but, defensively, Valencia played very well."

Barca's first league draw of the season means they are on a league- leading 34 points. Atletico Madrid are two points adrift, with Real Madrid a further two points back.

Real ended a turbulent week off the pitch with a 4-1 win over Getafe.

Real were expelled from the King's Cup on Friday - the latest setback in a difficult few weeks for the world's richest club by income.

Hammered 4-0 at home by bitter rivals Barca last month, Real needed a strong performance against Getafe to relieve the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez.

Karim Benzema, whose legal problems have been another of Real's off-field distractions, opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he volleyed in Pepe's cross.

The forward, who is under investigation over his alleged involvement in an attempt to blackmail France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex video, added a second in the 16th minute with a low shot.

Gareth Bale made it 3-0 in the 35th minute after being set up by Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished off a swift break three minutes later.

It marked the first time this season Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo, collectively known as "BBC", have scored in the same La Liga game.

Getafe defender Alexis Ruano pulled a goal back from a 70th-minute corner.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Neville sees Valencia's fighting spirit as they hold Barcelona'. Print Edition | Subscribe