Lionel Messi Scores 34th League Goal as Barcelona Held to Draw by Valencia

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2013

Barcelona had a chance to open up even more of a gap between themselves and rivals Real Madrid on Sunday after the latter side were defeated 1-0 by Granada on Saturday, but could only manage a 1-1 draw with Valencia at the Mestalla.

The result means Barcelona now have a 12-point lead at the top of La Liga, though Atletico Madrid, currently in second place, have their game to play later on following the culmination of Valencia-Barcelona.

Real Madrid are languishing a full 16 points behind Barcelona, with 16 games left to play.

Valencia took the lead against Barcelona just after the half-hour mark when Ever Banega was left to slot home after a chipped cross wasn't cleared by the defence, but Los Che's dreams of victory lasted barely six minutes before Barça were awarded a penalty.

Messi stepped up to hammer into the top corner his 34th La Liga goal of the season (via to earn his team a point, while he now has a strike rate of 1.54 goals per game in the Spanish top flight.

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes had to make a double-save to deny Valencia the chance to retake the lead, while former Mestalla favourite David Villa made a substitute entrance and almost found a winner with a placed shot wide of the post.

Valencia have won seven of their 12 home league games this season so with Real having dropped points again—their fourth defeat in Andalucia this season—Barcelona can afford to view this as very much a case of one point won as they march on towards regaining their title.