Barcelona frustrated despite late equaliser against Valencia
Messi goal incorrectly ruled out but Barcelona maintain four-point lead in La Liga
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi remonstrates with the assistant referee. Photograph: Heino Kalis/Reuters
Barcelona defender Jordi Alba haunted his former club Valencia by volleying in a stunning late equaliser to ensure Sunday’s 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.
Messi’s tame shot in the 30th minute was spilled by Valencia goalkeeper Neto and bounced over the line before the Brazilian dragged it back over, but neither referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva nor his assistant spotted it.
Messi celebrated the goal along with his team mates but play continued and Valencia almost scored as Simone Zaza flashed a shot just wide, narrowly averting more controversy.
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.
Napoli return to top
Juventus bounced back to winning ways with a comfortable home victory while Napoli returned to the top of Serie A on Sunday.
Second-half goals from Mario Mandzukic, Mattia De Sciglio and Medhi Benatia saw the reigning champions recover from their setback at Sampdoria last weekend with a 3-0 win over Crotone.
Juve could not find a way past the visitors’ defence in the first half but Croatian forward Mandzukic finally broke the deadlock seven minutes after the break when he headed in Andrea Barzagli’s cross.
De Sciglio made his mark two minutes after coming on, arrowing in his first Serie A goal from the edge of the area, before fellow sub Miralem Pjanic crossed for Benatia to tap in the third with 19 minutes left.
Victory leaves Massimiliano Allegri’s men in third place, four points behind leaders Napoli, where they travel on Friday.
Maurizio Sarri’s men had earlier reclaimed top spot with a 1-0 win over Udinese.
Inter Milan had moved a point ahead after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Cagliari but Napoli needed a solitary Jorginho goal to make an instant return to the summit.
The only goal came in the 33rd minute when a bewildered Gabriele Angella brought down Christian Maggio in the box and though Jorginho’s penalty was saved by Simone Scuffet, the midfielder tucked away the loose ball.