Valencia CF became only the third side this season to take Liga points off FC Barcelona by earning a 1-1 draw at Mestalla, which allowed Club Atlético de Madrid to close the gap by beating Real Betis Balompié 1-0.
Éver Banega put Valencia in front with an excellent effort on 33 minutes, controlling a dropping ball from a headed clearance before rifling a low shot beyond Víctor Valdés. His side were not ahead for long, however, as Lionel Messi's powerful penalty – his 34th Liga goal of the campaign – pulled the Blaugrana level six minutes later, after João Pereira had felled Pedro Rodríguez.
The second half brought no further goals, but Valencia came closest, with only a stunning save from Valdés denying Roberto Soldado in the closing moments.
Meanwhile, substitute Diego Costa's header from a second-half corner helped second-placed Atlético overcome a stubborn Real Betis Balompié. The capital side now lie nine points shy of the leaders.
Also on Sunday, Isco cancelled out Hélder Postiga's classy opener as Málaga CF drew 1-1 at home against Real Zaragoza, while Álvaro Negredo hit the winner as Sevilla FC triumphed 2-1 at home against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid. Lastly, Real Sociedad de Fútbol eased to a 3-0 home win against an RCD Mallorca side that was reduced to ten men midway through the first half.
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