Barcelona coach Luis Enrique admitted his star attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez had for once let his side down as Barca conceded a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at Valencia on Saturday.
The European champions should have been out of sight by half-time as all three of the South American triumvirate missed glorious chances to put the visitors in front.
Suarez did finally find the net just before the hour mark, but, with new coach Gary Neville watching on from the stands, Santi Mina snatched a point for Valencia five minutes from time.
Barca’s first league draw of the season means they now lead Atletico Madrid by just two points at the top of the table with Real Madrid a further two points adrift.
“We lacked that ease that we normally have to finish our chances in the final third. I am happy with the performance of the team, for their ambition, their way of preparing for every match and we’ll keep going,” said Enrique.
“There is nothing to reproach the team for. We played a complete game at a very difficult place to come, we dominated the whole game and had by far the most chances.
“We weren’t rewarded for all the effort we put in, but Valencia defensively played very well. They were solid, well supported by their fans and took advantage of one transition.”
It could even have been worse for Barca as Valencia claimed Suarez should have been sent-off just before he opened the scoring for a stamp on Aymen Abdennour.
And the hosts were also unhappy that the Uruguayan appeared to start in an offside position before beating Jaume Domenech at his near post for the opening goal.
Enrique claimed not to have seen either incident and his captain Andres Iniesta insisted Barca had been unlucky to come away with just a point from Mestalla.
“Anything can happen when you don’t kill the game,” said Iniesta.
“I think above all in the first-half we had clear chances to go in front, but I am left with how well the team played again at a place like Mestalla and it is shame to concede the equaliser at the end which leaves us with a point.
“We weren’t clinical in front of goal. Valencia scored with the one or two chances they had. They tried to make it an uncomfortable game for us, but we still managed to get in behind and create chances.
“We lacked that extra goal to put the game at ease. We played very well in all aspects of the game, but we lacked the most difficult thing which is the finish.”
Neville doesn’t officially take over at Valencia until Sunday, so the caretaker team of Voro and Neville’s brother Phil were charged with stopping Barca’s free-scoring form of recent weeks.
And Voro believes the confidence gained from the point will help Neville’s job of turning the club’s season around in the coming weeks.
“We played the game we had to,” he said.
“We’ve managed to get a point and, above all, taken the first step to recovering our confidence,” – Agence France-Presse