Barcelona maintained their four-point lead at the top of La Liga on Sunday evening thanks to a controversy-filled 1-1 draw with second-place Valencia on the shores of the Mediterranean sea.
A goal for either side in the second-half were enough to the share the spoils, with Rodrigo opening the scoring from close range before Jordi Alba pulled his side level with a superb finish 10 minutes removed from full-time.
However, the clash will always be remembered, as many are, for an incident involving Lionel Messi, who on this occasion did not find the back of the net, but only due to the official who had not noticed it had crossed the line.
The Argentine’s ‘ghost goal’ will take the headlines from a true battle of giants, however Valencia showed more than enough to prove their current league standing is a deserved one and could well be on the Catalonians’ tail for the remainder of the campaign.
The night started out on a rather emotional note from both sides, with Barca entering the Mestalla Stadium sporting ‘#AguanteToto’ shirts in dedication of Sevilla coach Eduardo Berizzo, after the 48-year-old announced he was suffering from cancer in midweek.
This was followed by a moment of remembrance for former Valencia president Jaume Orti, who sadly passed away on Friday at the age of 70 after losing his battle with lung cancer.
However, as proceedings commenced it was an expectedly dominant opening of possession by the visitors, however Ernetso Valverde’s side struggled to really utilise it effectively and impact the game in the attacking third with any real substance.
Aside from the few pot shots from distance courtesy of Ivan Rakitic and Paulinho, Valencia goalkeeper Neto had little of significance to deal with as play remained condensed in the midfield as a result of both sides’ cagey set-up.
This is not how Valencia got to where they are. Poor. Barcelona, superb with and without the ball
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) November 26, 2017
However, a fairly uneventful first half-hour then burst into life in an extremely controversial way, as the lack of goal-line technology in Spanish top flight football proved incredibly costly for Barcelona and Lionel Messi once again.
The Argentine wizard was found on the edge of the area before unleashing his powerful first-time drive towards goal. The attempt looked a simple claim for goalkeeper Neto, however the Brazilian’s controlling palm to the floor allowed the ball to skip through his legs and make its way towards the back of the net.
The 28-year-old eventually clawed the backspinning attempt away after realising his mistake, however replays showed that the had ball clearly crossed the line before doing so, and by some distance.
However, the official was not up with play and deemed the custodian to have made a save, the second time in 2017 the Catalonians have been denied a perfectly legal goal, with Real Betis’ over-the-line clearance from Luis Suarez sparking outrage last season.
After the ‘ghost goal’ Barca seemingly lost a slight edge to their play, and despite continuing to see much of the ball, were unable to convert that possession into opportunities with the scores remaining level at the break.
As the second 45 got underway it was clear to see the hosts were attempting to implement a more proactive game plan, a technique that has made them such a dominant force so far this term and something they did not do at all during the first-half.
Rather unsurprisingly it took just 15 minutes of the second period for the hosts’ more offensive outlook to pay dividends, as Rodrigo tapped home from close range to spark scenes of absolute jubilation inside the Mestalla Stadium.
The move started out with Goncalo Guedes holding up play on the edge of the 18-yard box before utilising the overlap of left-back Jose Gaya, who drove into the area and teed up his Brazilian-born Spain international teammate for the simplest of finishes with a low cross across the face of goal.
Rodrigo’s 13 games for Valencia this season:
?? Goal pic.twitter.com/eMhavrS4Ey
— bet365 (@bet365) November 26, 2017
After going behind Barca continued to plug away in their efforts to draw level, and eventually they were rewarded, as Alba applied a clinical finish and volleyed home against his former club from close range after latching onto the end of a sublime Messi pass from deep.
Following the Spanish left-back silencing those who once cheered his name, the tie opened up, and had Simone Zaza been able to apply a little more composure in the last kick of the game, Valencia would have secured all three points.
As it was though he did not, and the spoils were shared from what was a truly great La Liga clash.