Santi Mina’s late goal earned Valencia a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday, with new boss Gary Neville watching on in the stands.
Neville succeeded Nuno Santo as Valencia Coach on Wednesday, but with the game coming so close to the appointment, Salvador Voro was left in charge for the second game running.
On the pitch, meanwhile, both sides were much-changed from their Copa del Rey excursions in the week, with a combined 15 additions being sanctioned by either trainer.
Los Che’s last League defeat at Mestalla came in November 2014, coincidentally against Barca, who prevailed thanks to Sergio Busquets’ goal in the dying embers.
Thirteen months on, and the Catalans quickly proceeded to dominate possession but were left to rue a glut of chances before half-time, all of them involving their acclaimed trident of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Neymar got the better of makeshift right-back Ruben Vezo on countless occasions, and Messi should have done better with the No 11’s cross, having only found Jaume Domenech with his close-range shot.
The Brazilian also blazed over a one-on-one with the goalkeeper in the early stages and came a whisker away from turning home Suarez’s chipped cross in the box.
However, the best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to the former Liverpool star, who blasted a volley over the bar from yet another Neymar cross.
The restart was marred by a potential incident involving Suarez, who looked to have deliberately stepped on Abdennour’s foot at the height of their match-long duel but avoided punishment.
Nonetheless, he was on the pitch to fire Barca ahead, albeit controversially, as he was seen to be offside when he raced onto a through ball, although there was no doubt about his angled finish to beat Domenech at his near post.
Valencia were in dire need of inspiration, but Voro and his assistant – and the incoming boss’ brother – Phil Neville found just what the side were looking for by bringing on attackers Zakaria Bakkali and Pablo Piatti.
Los Che suddenly looked reenergised as they ploughed forward for the equaliser, although they seemed to have missed the boat when Rodrigo De Paul – in only his fifth appearance – chose to force a save from Bravo rather than use unmarked Bakkali.
Yet they were ultimately rewarded for their lion hearts, Paco Alcacer superbly holding off Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano in the box to tee up Mina, who blasted home a resounding finish, to ensure the Neville era began on a positive footing.
Valencia 1-1 Barcelona
Mina 86 (V) Suarez 59 (B)
Valencia: Domenech; Vezo, Santos, Abdennour, Gaya; Parejo, Danilo, Perez (Bakkali 73); Mina (Tropi 88), Alcacer, De Paul (Piatti 83)
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Referee: Jaime Latre