VALENCIA, Spain – Valencia and Barcelona battled to a 1-1 draw on Sunday in an intense duel at the Mestalla stadium in which the Catalan team was haunted by a ghost goal by Lionel Messi in the first half.
Messi fired a shot-on-goal at around the 30-minute mark from the edge of the area that got by the host team’s goalkeeper, Neto. The ball went over the line by about a meter (yard), but the referee – Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva – and other officials failed to acknowledge it.
The Argentine star and his teammates were already beginning to celebrate when the referee denied the goal.
Although TV replays showed that the goal had clearly been scored, Barcelona was forced to come up dry that time around, and it was not until the subsequent two goals – one for each squad in the second half – had been netted that the importance of the initial ghost tally became evident.
Barcelona dominated the first half, but Valencia came out after the break with a vengeance and it was Rodrigo who got the home team on the board first in the 59th minute.
Just 7 minutes before regulation time was done, it was Jordi Alba who saved the visitors’ hide and salvaged what might have been a defeat.
Despite the draw, Barça is out in front of second-place Valencia in the First Division standings by four points but had their advantage over Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid shaved from 10 to eight points.
“We don’t feel very good,” said Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquests after the intense match. “It was a clear goal, but the referee and the assistant did not see it.”
“It was a clear mistake, I could see from midfield that it was a goal,” Alba said afterwards, regarding the referee’s mistake. “We saw it on television during halftime. It was not a foul or something like that, which can be a matter of interpretation.”
The Spanish soccer league has received heavy criticism in the past for not having a video review system in place, and – as a result – it is expected to have such a system in operation by the start of next season.
The match, in the 13th week of La Liga play, was conducted before some 48,000 fans.