Football: Alba strikes late to deny Valencia against Barca

Valencia's striker Rodrigo Moreno jubilates the first goal of the team during the Spanish First Division League 13th round match between Valencia and FC Barcelona in Valencia, Spain on Nov 26, 2017.
Valencia's striker Rodrigo Moreno jubilates the first goal of the team during the Spanish First Division League 13th round match between Valencia and FC Barcelona in Valencia, Spain on Nov 26, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

VALENCIA (REUTERS) - Barcelona defender Jordi Alba haunted his former club Valencia by volleying in a stunning late equaliser to ensure Sunday's (Nov 26) compelling and controversial top-of-the-table clash in La Liga finished 1-1, preserving Barca's four-point lead at the summit.

The game was overshadowed by Barca being denied a goal when Lionel Messi's shot crossed the line in the first half, although the Argentine forward still had a say in the game, laying on a perfectly weighted pass for Alba's 82nd minute leveller.

Spain striker Rodrigo Moreno put Valencia ahead on the hour, sneaking ahead of Barca's Thomas Vermaelen to score from close range before putting on an orange wig in tribute to the club's late president Jaume Orti who passed away on Friday.

Barca lead the standings on 35 points, Valencia have 31 while Atletico Madrid are third on 27, level on points with fourth-placed Real Madrid.

Before kick off, Valencia had paid tribute to Orti, president during the club's last two Liga title-winning seasons in 2002 and 2004 and an electric atmosphere gripped the Mestalla stadium.

Marcelino's revitalised side were searching for a ninth consecutive league win to cement their first title tilt in 14 seasons but Barca took command in the first half, puncturing the atmosphere with long periods of possession.

Still, the leaders failed to create any clear chances until the game's 30th minute flashpoint when Messi's tame shot was spilled by Valencia goalkeeper Neto and bounced over the line before the Brazilian dragged it back over.

Neither referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva nor his assistant spotted the goal and while Messi and his team mates celebrated, play continued with Valencia almost scoring when Simone Zaza flashed a shot just wide.

Valencia grew in confidence after the break, pressing Barca high up the pitch. Zaza shot wide again and Barca defender Nelson Semedo gifted the ball to Rodrigo, who failed to capitalise.

The striker found the target soon after, poking home to complete sweeping move between left back Jose Gaya and winger Goncalo Guedes, putting Valencia on course for a first home win over Barca in over a decade until Alba struck.

Zaza could have struck a winning goal deep in injury time but his shot bounced over the bar.