Barcelona had to battle hard to keep their unbeaten run intact as they held Valencia to a late 1-1 draw at Mestalla on Sunday

Barcelona dominated much of the first half as they quickly got into their stride, with Paulinho and Ivan Rakitic coming close for them. Simone Zaza nearly scored for the hosts on the other end, but not before a moment of controversy, when Lionel Messi was denied a clear goal.

The Argentine had hit a first-time shot from Luis Suarez’s cross, which was spilled over the line by Neto, but referee Iglesias Villanueva waved off all protests from Barcelona players. In the second half, Valencia came close through Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo before the latter finally found his way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen at the hour mark.

The Spain international met Jose Gaya’s cross with a superb close-range shot to give his side the lead. Barcelona then set in search of the equaliser, with Los Che sniffing opportunities on the break. But, the visitors’ persistence finally paid off when Jordi Alba volleyed in Messi’s superb cross to level things up late into the game.

With the match ending all square, both sides continued their unbeaten run, while Barcelona preserved their four-point lead at the top of the table. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men after a battling draw.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7/10

After a relatively quiet first half when he wasn’t tested enough, ter Stegen had to stay alert in the final 45 minutes of the game to ensure that his side remained in the game till the dying stages, especially the match-saving block off Guedes. He couldn’t have done much to stop the goal, though.

Nelson Semedo: 5/10

Things aren’t exactly gone too swimmingly for Semedo of late, with the Portuguese’s honeymoon period seemingly over. A long way away from his best, the player lacked imagination going forward while being poor defensively. He had a huge role to play for Valencia’s goal as he was equally beaten by Gaya before the Spaniard crossed for Rodrigo.

Samuel Umtiti: 8/10

Marvellous as ever, there was little going past Umtiti on the night as he continued being a dominant force at the back for Barcelona. If Semedo wants to learn something about calmness and decision making, he does not need to look further from the Frenchman, who looks a figure of composure while also adeptly playing out balls from defence.

Thomas Vermaelen: 6.5/10

In what was his first league start in forever, Vermaelen acquitted himself well, reading the game well while also neutralising the threat of Valencia’s attackers smartly. He failed to track the run of Rodrigo though, who scored for the hosts, and that was perhaps his only major error in an otherwise solid outing.

Jordi Alba: 8.5/10

The ex-Valencia man has been admirably consistent this season, but Sunday’s performance was one of his best in a Barcelona shirt, let alone just this season. Up against his former side, Alba looked highly motivated to contribute his bit for his current team, and he was lively all night.

That energy enabled him to keep things in check defensively while marauding forward for the most part. His impeccable spirit finally yielded a desirable result as the Spaniard he capped a fine outing with a goal that saved one point for his side.

Ivan Rakitic: 6/10

Raktic started the game strongly, charging forward with purpose while also helping Busquets at the centre of the park. But, he faded away in the final 45 minutes, making little impact at either end, before he was finally replaced by Gerard Deulofeu.

Sergio Busquets: 7/10

It was a typical outing for Busquets, who solid, composed and tidy as always. It’s a huge credit to him that Barcelona remained untroubled for the most part in the first half as he cut off many a Valencia attack. A superb asset for Valverde.

Andres Iniesta: 7/10

Barcelona controlled the game for the first 50 minutes or so and it was mostly in part due to Iniesta, who kept things ticking while linking up well with Paulinho and Alba. As the action became frenzied in the second half, the Barcelona captain showed signs of fatigue, and that’s when he was subbed off.

Paulinho: 6.5/10

The Brazilian has seen better days in his short Barcelona spell so far, but he wasn’t poor either on the night. His pressing abilities stifled Valencia to a great extent in the first half, and his movement made him a nuisance going forward. Like many of his teammates, his form petered out in the second half.

Lionel Messi: 7/10

A constant threat in the match, Messi should have had the goal that broke the deadlock in the first half before he was cruelly stopped in the midst of his celebration. The Argentine finally had a say in the match as he picked up Alba that split the Valencia defence remarkably.

Luis Suarez: 5/10

After looking like he was well on his way to picking up form last week, Suarez again showed signs of poor form once again on Sunday. Frustratingly, he was caught offside a lot more frequently than he should have, while the Uruguayan also lacked the mobility to stretch the Valencia defence. Back to the drawing board for him.

SUBSTITUTES

Gerard Deulofeu: 6.5/10

Instilled creativity and pace in Barcelona’s game upon his substitution, and he helped provide the width that his side was missing with Rakitic.

Denis Suarez: N/A

After coming on late, Denis’ energetic bursts helped the visitors remain within touching distance of a win towards the end.

Aleix Vidal: N/A

Replaced Semedo in the fag end of the match, Vidal seemed to be quite an improvement on the Portugal international.