Football

Alba praises former club after Barcelona draw

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Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba believed either side could have left victorious as his team returned from the Mestalla with a point following a 1-1 draw against Valencia on Sunday. 

First-half goals from Ever Banega and Lionel Messi meant the spoils were shared after an entertaining clash, and Alba only had positive words for his former side, although he felt the midweek encounter with Real Madrid had taken its toll on the league leaders.

"It was a very even match and either side could have won because both teams created chances," he told the club's official website. "We were a bit tired because the cup match was very demanding.

"It’s always been difficult for Barca to come to Mestalla. Valencia are very strong since [Ernesto] Valverde arrived at the club and I’m sure they will be high up in the table at the end of the season,” he added. 

The 23-year-old made the switch to the Nou Camp last summer, in a deal worth €14 million, and despite a mixed reception from home fans had only positive words about his time there. 

“I really enjoyed my time at Valencia, I can only say good things," he said. "I noticed that a lot of fans still care for me, not all of them, but all opinions are respectable.”

Valencia’s game plan was clear, as they looked to restrict their opponents of the usual time and space on the ball while looking to hit them on the break.

All was going to plan as Banega opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, drilling the ball past Victor Valdes and beating him at his near post. 

But it didn’t take long for the visitors to reply as Pedro earned his side a spot kick following a clumsy challenge by Joao Pereira, which saw Messi step up to tuck away his 34th league goal of the season.

The recently-crowned World Player of the Year broke another record by doing so, as he became the first player to score in 12 consecutive La Liga matches. 

Both sides had chances to win the game in the second half, with Valdes denying Roberto Soldado with a fantastic double save to stop the hosts snatching the points. 

A hard-fought draw for Barcelona saw their lead at the top cut to nine points after Atletico Madrid defeated Real Betis, while Valencia moved up to sixth, just two points off the Champions League places.

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