Barcelona glean positives despite chalked-off goal

Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba (second from right) celebrating with team-mates Lionel Messi, Paulinho and Luis Suarezafter his 82nd-minute equaliser against former club Valencia on Sunday. The table-toppers maintained their four-point lead over the s
Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba (second from right) celebrating with team-mates Lionel Messi, Paulinho and Luis Suarezafter his 82nd-minute equaliser against former club Valencia on Sunday. The table-toppers maintained their four-point lead over the same opponents, after a contentious 1-1 draw at the Mestalla.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

VALENCIA (Spain) • Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde praised his side's temperament after they salvaged a 1-1 draw at Valencia on Sunday despite being denied a clear opener and then falling behind to Rodrigo's 60th-minute goal.

A point maintains Barca's four-point lead over Valencia at the top of LaLiga, but the Catalans were forced to do it the hard way after Lionel Messi's 30th-minute strike that slipped through Valencia goalkeeper Neto's legs was somehow not deemed to have crossed the line by the officials.

Unlike Europe's other top leagues, LaLiga has so far not introduce goal-line technology due to cost concerns. The Spanish football federation, however, announced this month that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system would be used in the league from the start of next season.

"Messi's goal was very clear," said Valverde. "The important thing is to not let the tension of the game overcome you and we didn't lose our concentration against a very strong opponent.

"It was a good game, marred by one controversial moment. We know the potential Valencia have at home and though we don't go away completely satisfied, we managed to take something positive."

After a first-half performance well below the form they have shown so far this season, Valencia improved after half-time and went in front when Rodrigo tapped home from close range.

However, Barca responded to protect their unbeaten record in LaLiga this season when former Valencia left-back Jordi Alba volleyed home eight minutes from time.

A share of the spoils between Valencia and Barcelona also allowed Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid to close the gap to within eight points, after both Madrid clubs won their respective games on Saturday.

Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral was forced to watch from the stands as he served a touchline ban.

Assistant coach Ruben Uria admitted the hosts had been handed a huge slice of luck.

"We are in favour of technology and this time, it has fallen in our favour," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Barcelona glean positives despite chalked-off goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe