Valencia hold Barcelona to stay top

Barcelona twice fought back from a goal down to earn a 2-2 draw from their trip to league leaders Valencia following an enthralling Primera Division showdown at the Mestalla.

Valencia went ahead through an own goal from Eric Abidal early on and, after Barcelona had immediately drawn level through Pedro Rodriguez, Unai Emery's men regained the lead through Pablo Hernandez in the 23rd minute. Barcelona got themselves back on terms 13 minutes from time through Cesc Fabregas though to ensure the reigning champions remain unbeaten and in the process ended Valencia's perfect start to the campaign.

Valencia, who lost defender Jordi Alba to a late red card, began the day as one of only two sides still boasting a 100 per cent record, the other being Real Betis, and they looked in no mood to surrender that record as they started in style. It took the hosts just 12 minutes to get ahead when Jeremy Mathieu - who was to prove a constant menace down the left for Valencia - fired in a low cross that Abidal deflected into his own net as team-mate Victor Valdes came out to claim.

The lead lasted barely two minutes though before Barcelona were back on level terms. Good work from Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick in Saturday's 8-0 mauling of Osasuna, saw Pedro put through on the left of the area and his low shot from a tight angle beat Vicente Guaita at his near post.

Messi then felt he should have won a penalty in the 17th minute after being up-ended by Adil Rami on the edge of the box, but play was waved on much to the Argentinian's astonishment.

To add to Barcelona's frustration they found themselves trailing again seven minutes later. Mathieu was again involved as his cross from the left found Pablo at the far post after Abidal was unable to intervene in the middle, and the unmarked Valencia winger beat Valdes with a confident low finish.

Pivotal moment
Valencia really should have gone 3-1 ahead just before half-time, but in-form striker Roberto Soldado was unable to convert with an open goal at his mercy. The 26-year-old looked certain to score his sixth goal of the season as Mathieu again crossed from the left, but Valdes got the slightest of touches to the ball, and that was enough to force Soldado into scuffing his shot wide in front of a gaping net.

Barcelona had another let-off at the start of the second half when Soldado again failed to get a good connection on his shot in front of goal.

Pep Guardiola's side did not need any more wake-up calls and, after Javier Mascherano had seen a swerving 30-yard shot crash against the crossbar in the 67th minute and Messi had been denied by Guaita when clean through, the visitors drew level in the 77th minute.

Messi's fine through-ball picked out Fabregas and he showed great coolness considering the situation to take the ball down and calmly slot a left-footed shot past Guaita. That was Fabregas' fourth goal in four league games for Barcelona following his summer switch from Arsenal and was enough to earn the European champions a point, although the visitors might well have been celebrating all three if it was not for Guaita.

He produced a brilliant 88th-minute block to deny David Villa after the Spain international had been put in by another fantastic Messi pass. Soon after that Valencia lost Alba to a straight red card, but there was not enough time for Barca to take advantage.