Barca lose Liga lead after exciting draw at Valencia

Champions Barcelona's domestic strife continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Valencia in an absorbing La Liga game on Sunday, with Lionel Messi again coming to their rescue by equalising with an 11th goal in 10 games this season.

The draw stretched Barca's winless run in Spain's top flight to four games and saw them surrender first place to Sevilla in a highly competitive campaign in which the leading six teams are separated by only two points.

The Catalans fell behind in the second minute at a bouncing Mestalla stadium after dreadful defending from a corner allowed Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay to stab home from close range.

Barca continued to leak chances but got a foothold in the game thanks to a superb strike in the 23rd minute from talisman Messi, who has been superb recently with a midweek performance for the ages against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League.

Barcelona failed to further breach well-organised Valencia, however, racking up a run of three draws and a defeat in four league games, their longest stretch without a win since 2016.

Sevilla are top on 16 points while Barca have 15 like Atletico Madrid but are second due to a better goal difference.

"This season it feels like we have to come back in every game and we are swimming against the current but we know that this is going to change," said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.

"You always want to win and when you don't you leave with the sensation that you have dropped two points but you have to recognise that Valencia did a very good job defensively."

Barcelona had responded to disappointing domestic results against Athletic Bilbao, Leganes and Girona with a commanding 4-2 victory over Spurs at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday but they were instantly back on the rocks when Garay struck.

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