Lionel Messi had a penalty
saved early in the second half as Barcelona were held to a 1-1
draw at Valencia in a hard-fought King's Cup semi-final first
leg on Wednesday.
Valencia snatched a 27th-minute lead at their Mestalla
stadium when Jeremy Mathieu found space down the left wing and
Jonas clipped the Frenchman's low cross high into the net past
goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.
Pinto was lucky to be still on the pitch after television
replays showed he handled the ball outside his area in the 18th
minute but the referee waved play on.
Barca captain Carles Puyol equalised 10 minutes before the
break when he met a deep Cesc Fabregas corner and nodded past
Diego Alves, who had come out to collect the ball but watched it
sail over his head.
Alves, who has an impressive record saving spot-kicks, made
amends 11 minutes into the second half when he flung himself to
his left and parried away Messi's penalty, awarded after Miguel
felled Thiago Alcantara in the area.
Barca substitute Daniel Alves smashed a shot against the
post after a brilliant one-two with Messi around 15 minutes from
time but neither side were able to find another goal ahead of
next week's second leg at the Nou Camp.
"He [Messi] is a player who doesn't give you much of a clue
about which way he is going to shoot," Valencia goalkeeper Alves
said in a television interview.
"You just have to hang in there and try to deceive him and
today I was happy to be able to help the team," the Brazilian
It was Barca's third successive draw, coming after they were
held to a 0-0 stalemate at Villarreal in La Liga on Saturday and
last week's 2-2 cup quarter-final draw at home to holders Real
Madrid that sent Pep Guardiola's side through 4-3 on aggregate.
Guardiola, who was without the injured Andres Iniesta, David
Villa and Pedro and opted to rest playmaker Xavi, told a news
conference it was the best performance against Valencia he had
seen from his players since he became coach in 2008.
"We created a lot of problems for them and they have always
done the same to us, at home or away," the former Barca and
Spain midfielder said.
"It was a great result but the tie is not decided and now we
need to win the return leg and see if we can make the final."
The eventual winners will play 23-times cup winners Athletic
Bilbao - Barca hold the record with 25 - or third-tier
Mirandes in the final.
Mirandes, only the second team from Spain's Segunda B to
reach the last four of the cup in its present format, gave
themselves hope of pulling off another upset with a late goal in
Tuesday's first leg at their tiny stadium in Miranda de Ebro as
a Fernando Llorente double gave Bilbao a narrow 2-1 success.
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