Football: Barca held by Valencia as Messi matches Pele goal haul

Messi heads the ball to score a goal against Valencia. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Lionel Messi equalled Pele's record of 643 goals for a single club on Saturday (Dec 19) but was unable to help Barcelona beat Valencia in La Liga as they had to settle for a 2-2 home draw.

Valencia went ahead at the Camp Nou when Mouctar Diakhaby pounced on some slack Barca defending to head home in the 29th minute.

Barca earned a penalty towards the end of the first half when Jose Gaya lightly pushed Antoine Griezmann in the back and was initially shown a red card which was then reduced to a yellow after the referee consulted the pitchside monitor.

Messi saw his penalty saved by Valencia keeper Jaume Domenech but Jordi Alba kept the ball alive and his deflected cross fell towards the Argentine, who dived to head the ball across the line and score the milestone goal.

Defender Ronald Araujo gave Barca the lead early in the second half with an acrobatic strike from inside the area but Valencia hit back in the 69th when Maxi Gomez turned in a cross from Gaya, denying the Catalans a third straight league win.

The draw left Barca fifth in the standings on 21 points after 13 games, eight behind leaders Atletico Madrid and having played one game more.

"We're feeling bitter because we really wanted the three points, it's a real shame they equalised," said goalscorer Araujo.

"We made some mistakes in defence which we cannot afford to make and it's very frustrating because we had lots of chances but the ball wouldn't go in."

The Catalans had enjoyed an impressive 2-1 win over Real Sociedad in mid-week but failed to build on the momentum and are still waiting to record three consecutive victories this season.

Like Barca, Valencia are experiencing a season of upheaval and poor results but once again they produced an outstanding, disciplined display, as they did in their 4-1 win over Real Madrid and their victory over high-flying Real Sociedad.

Barca's Martin Braithwaite should have increased their lead in the second half but saw his shot blocked by Domenech just as it was about to cross the line, while the keeper also kept out a long-range strike from defender Oscar Mingueza.

Messi went close from a free kick while Philippe Coutinho also could have snatched a winner but flashed his shot just wide of the far post.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.