Messi thwarted as Barca held by Valencia in Cup semi

reuters, Thursday 2 Feb 2012

Lionel Messi had a penalty saved early in the second half as Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw at Valencia in a hard-fought King’s Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday

Lionel Messi

Valencia snatched a 27th-minute lead at their Mestalla stadium when Jeremy Mathieu found space down the left wing and Jonas clipped the Frenchman’s low cross high into the net past goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.

Pinto was lucky to be still on the pitch after television replays showed he handled the ball outside his area in the 18th minute but the referee waved play on.

Barca captain Carles Puyol equalised 10 minutes before the break when he met a deep Cesc Fabregas corner and nodded past Diego Alves, who had come out to collect the ball but watched it sail over his head.

Alves, who has an impressive record saving spot kicks, made amends 11 minutes into the second half when he flung himself to his left and parried away Messi’s penalty, awarded after Miguel felled Thiago Alcantara in the area.

Substitute Daniel Alves smashed a shot against the post after a brilliant one-two with Messi around 15 minutes from time but neither side was able to find a winner ahead of next week’s second leg at the Nou Camp.

The eventual winners will play 23-times Cup winners Athletic Bilbao or third-tier Mirandes in the final.

Mirandes, only the second team from Spain’s Segunda B to reach the last four of the Cup in its present format, gave themselves hope of pulling off another upset with a late goal in Tuesday’s first leg at their tiny stadium in Miranda de Ebro as a Fernando Llorente double gave Bilbao a 2-1 success.

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