It was a depleted Barcelona side that turned up in Valencia tonight, but it was also a team that does’t give and they got a credible 1-1 draw in their Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg. Barca will be heavy favorites now to finish this tie off at the Camp Now.
Barca were given an early scare when Roberto Soldado raced onto a through ball, but Pinto came racing out of his goal to slide in and clear the danger, appearing to use his hand as he did so, only for play to be waved on. He could easily have been given a red card for a deliberate red card.
A minute later, a lovely ball from Cesc Fabregas put Alexis Sanchez in, but he got his shot all wrong and toe-poked it harmlessly wide. It was an awful miss. At the other end, Soldado met an Ever Banega corner but volleyed just over the bar, before Messi dragged a shot wide for Barca.
The deadlock was broken on 27 minutes. Valencia got down the left-hand side and Mathieu’s cross was met by Jonas, who fired home from 10 yards for his eighth goal of the season.
Barca looked odds on to draw level on 36 minutes, but Alves made a sensational save to deny Alexis. However, from the resulting corner, Barca drew level when the unmarked Puyol nodded home at the far post. The curly-haired defender had lost his marker, Víctor Ruiz, to find the space to score.
Alexis had the ball in the net early in the second half but his effort was ruled out for offside, before Barcelona were handed the perfect opportunity to take the lead when Miguel clumsily brought down Thiago in the box. Messi stepped up to take the penalty but Alves guessed right and leapt to his left to palm the spot-kick away.
Gerard Pique then headed a good chance over the bar, before substitute Dani Alves saw an effort come back off the post after playing a lovely one-two with Messi.
And that proved to be the last chance of an enthralling game as the two sides had to settle for a draw. The second leg takes place at Camp Nou on February 8.