Valencia Foils Barcelona’s La Liga Title Defense with a Stalemate

Xavi Hernandez’s side moved third, a point clear of Atletico Madrid, but trail Real Madrid by four and shock leaders Girona by six, having played one game more than all three sides..

At the start of Saturday, Atletico suffered a 2-0 defeat against Athletic Bilbao, but couldn’t capitalize in an entertaining match on the Catalan coast. In the second half, after Joao Felix’s fantastic move put Barcelona ahead, Hugo Guillamon’s excellent strike pulled them back.

Barcelona has only secured one victory in their last four league matches, including a recent home defeat to Girona. In the middle of the week, their Champions League journey took a hit with a loss to Belgium’s Royal Antwerp, raising questions about Zavi’s management, although the Catalan team had already reached the last 16.

In the following days, club officials, including President Joan Laporta, supported them, dismissing media claims of a ‘final’ at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium. Barcelona midfielder Pedri told Movistar, “What was not a three-point game was a tough blow for us.”

“We did a lot of things right, but we couldn’t score – I think our performance was much better than the Girona game, where we weren’t good.”

The international player from Spain expressed support for Zavi’s team, saying, “We are with the coach; these are not good moments for any of us… we have to come together to change it.”

Just like the defeat to Girona, the game against Valencia continued from start to finish, resulting in the champion starting without a holding midfielder. Enaki Pena made a good early save to deny Roman Yeremchuk, while Valencia’s Georgi Mamardashvili thwarted Robert Lewandowski’s attempt.

Pedri fired, and Lewandowski sent a humble effort into the hands of Valencia’s goalkeeper. In a clever move, the visiting team took the lead early in the second half through Felix’s point-blank range effort.

A superb pass from Frankie de Jong was played to Rafinha, who placed the ball on a plate for the Portuguese forward to tap home. Mamardashvili made an excellent save with his thunderbolt from Rafinha just minutes before attacking Valencia.

Ronald Araujo, perhaps still concerned about his recent facial injury, let a ball bounce instead of clearing his lines, and Guillamon took advantage of it. Ruben Baraja’s team found the top corner from the edge of the box to bring Valencia level.

Ferran Torres missed a golden opportunity to give Barcelona the lead again when De Jong provided him with another clear lobbed ball, but the Spaniard lacked confidence in his volley.

Mamardashvili also denied Rafinha well, and Arujo’s wide drive did not come to fruition as Barcelona pressed hard for the winner in the final stages but couldn’t find it.

With the draw, Valencia sits in 10th place, while Baraja’s team is considerably stronger than last season when they had to fight relegation. Guillamon, after scoring in his first La Liga start of the season, said to Movistar, “We made a big effort, and we got a fantastic draw; we had to face the defeat there.”

“The coach is giving opportunities to other players in the team, but I always work to be available when needed.”

Girona, the leaders, welcomed Villarreal on Sunday after Real Madrid’s reception, and Atletico played host to Alaves on Monday.