Barcelona, Real held as Valencia stay top

A clinical Cesc Fabregas strike rescued a point for champions Barcelona in a 2-2 draw away to top of the table Valencia on Wednesday.

After the first weekend of fixtures there had been complaints that La Liga was already a two-horse race as both Barcelona and Real Madrid won by large margins. But since then it has not gone their way and Valencia lead the standings with ten points. Indeed Real dropped further points on Wednesday as they followed up their shock defeat to Levante last weekend by being held 0-0 by modest Racing Santander.

Valencia went ahead after just eleven minutes when Eric Abidal put a Jeremy Mathieu cross into his own net but, just two minutes later, Pedro Rodriguez equalised after a neat interchange between Cesc and Lionel Messi. Valencia enjoyed plenty of possession in the middle of the pitch and they went ahead again as Pablo Hernandez put away a Mathieu cross. Then before half-time Roberto Soldado missed an open goal.

It was not until the final stages of the match that Barca asserted themselves and it was once again the Messi and Fabregas combination which has worked so well this season that made the difference. The Argentinian found the former Arsenal man, who kept his head and placed the ball past the keeper.

In injury time Valencia were reduced to 10 men as defender Jordi Alba was given a straight red card for a comment he made to the referee.

People not directly involved in the sport perhaps said that the league was between two teams but the coaches and players would never say that.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said that he had never considered the title race would be a two club affair. "People not directly involved in the sport perhaps said that the league was between two teams but the coaches and players would never say that," said Guardiola.

"Valencia showed here that they are a strong team and can go out and win games. Apart from talking about the result, the game itself was good to watch.

"Valencia played well in the first half and we will learn our lesson from how it went. I am not disappointed with the result as we still have options to win everything."

Real coach Jose Mourinho rang the changes after the defeat by Levante but despite that it was another ineffective performance.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a header well saved by keeper Tono Rodriguez before the break and in the second half the introduction of Angel Di Maria did make some difference. In the closing stages Real were reduced to pumping the ball forward hopefully and Racing were able to hang on. The draw leaves Real Madrid on seven points, three adrift of Valencia.

Even the normally unflappable Mourinho admitted he was worried by their form. "This was a different match to that against Levante as here it felt as though there was only one side looking to win the game," said Mourinho.

"It is a worrying situation as we have now lost five points from two games away from home. It would be wrong to say one player hasn't scored or another one has failed but as a team we weren't at our best although we tried."

Elsewhere on Wednesday Atletico Madrid recorded their second successive 4-0 win as they beat pointless Sporting Gijon with Colombian striker Falcao scoring a double following on from his hat-trick at the weekend.

A second half strike from Santi Cazorla gave Qatar-owned Malaga victory over Athletic Bilbao - their third successive win - and Levante's good form continued with a 2-1 win away at Rayo Vallecano.

On Thursday Real Betis, another side with a 100 per cent record, face Zaragoza.