Honours even at the Mestalla as the Catalan giants played out an entertaining clash with the home side, who remain top of the table
Valencia proved that they can mix it with the big guns in La Liga after playing out a 2-2 draw against Barcelona at the Mestalla on Wednesday evening.
The hosts went into half-time with a 2-1 advantage after an own goal from Eric Abidal and a Pablo Hernandez strike. However, a Pedro effort in the first half and a Cesc Fabregas finish late in the second period gave Pep Guardiola's men a share of the points, in what was an enthralling, end-to-end encounter.
Major team news included Guardiola's decision to bench David Villa, who was returning to his former club, instead opting for a three-pronged attack of Fabregas, Lionel Messi and Pedro.
It was the home side that started the better, and took the lead in the 12th minute when Jeremy Mathieu made a strong run down the left hand side and fizzed a ball into the Barcelona penalty area, forcing Eric Abidal to accidentally stub the ball into his own net.
This advantage was short-lived, however, as the visitors equalised just two minutes later when Lionel Messi slipped a pass down the left of the Valencia box for Pedro, who managed to squeeze the ball past Guaita at his near post with a left-footed shot.
Barcelona felt that they should perhaps have had a penalty when Rami brought down Messi in the penalty area, but the referee waved play on, much to the annoyance of the Argentine.
Valencia were creating chances of their own, though, and regained the lead when Mathieu again drove to the byline and whipped in a cross, and this time it was Pablo who arrived totally unmarked at the back post to finish expertly with a first-time shot into the bottom right corner.
In front of a vibrant Mestalla crowd, the hosts continued to take the game to the champions, constantly stifling Barcelona's attacks with intense pressing and brilliant anticipation. They were always a threat on the counterattack and should have collected a two-goal lead when Roberto Soldado got on the end of another Mathieu cross, but agonisingly missed with the goal at his mercy.
The second-half was a tighter affair than the first period, with both sides involved in a midfield battle. However, it was Barcelona who looked most likely to score and they eventually grabbed the equaliser when Messi clipped a pass over the Valencia defence to Fabregas, who coolly passed the ball into the bottom left corner past Guaita.
Pep Guardiola's side probed for a winner in the last few minutes but Unai Emery's men remained solid, despite Jordi Alba's late red card leaving them hanging on as Messi continued to exert pressure.
This result leaves Barcelona in fourth place in La Liga, whereas Valencia find themselves proudly top of the table with an unbeaten record so far, and Emery will be content to see his side more than match the European champions.