Barcelona battle out valuable late draw in Valencia

April 26th, 2009 - 4:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Thierry Henry Madrid, April 26 (DPA) Barcelona were relieved to battle out a late 2-2 away to lively Valencia, with an 86th minute equalizer from supersub Thierry Henry.
The hard-fought draw Saturday leaves Barca seven points ahead of second-placed Real Madrid, who are away to third-placed Sevilla Sunday.

“We didn’t want to lose tonight,” said Henry, “and we showed a lot of courage. This is how leagues are won.”

The game in Mestalla looked like being yet another cakewalk for Barca, especially after Messi put them ahead in the 24th minute, after a clever one-two with Andres Iniesta.

But the Barca defence surprisingly collapsed just before half-time.

In the 43rd minute keeper Victor Valdes and Puyol messed up a seemingly harmless corner - and Maduro poked the ball home with his thigh. It was the first goal that Barca had conceded in eight games.

Just two minutes later Pablo made it 2-1 with a calm finish, after playing a perfect one-two with Juan Mata.

Predictably, Valencia were content to soak up the pressure and play on the break in the second half. Barca dominated possession but were uninspired and failed to create any clear chances to equalize.

Four minutes from time, however, Valencia keeper Cesar spilled a Messi free-kick, and Henry took advantage to make it 2-2 with a left-foot shot.

The draw ends Barca’s run of seven straight wins and Valencia’s run of five triumphs.

Barca now have 82 points from 33 games, Real have 75 from 32, Sevilla have 57 from 32 and Valencia, still in fourth place, now have 56 from 33.

Earlier Saturday, Malaga were held to a 1-1 draw by Deportivo Coruna.

Former Spain striker Albert Luque gave Malaga the lead in the 33rd minute, only for fellow veteran Sergio to equalize for Deportivo just after half-time.

Malaga would have gone fifth had they won. Instead, they continue in sixth place with 51 points, one point above Deportivo but one behind fifth-placed Villarreal.

“We have missed another good chance tonight,” said Malaga defender Javier Calleja, “to get closer to the European places.”

Saturday’s other early game saw bottom team Numancia beaten 2-1 by Almeria, for whom Kalu Uche and Fernando Soriano were the scorers.

Numancia have just 28 points - two less than Recreativo Huelva and four less than Espanyol - and are surely heading towards their third relegation within eight years.

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