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Barcelona salvages point at Valencia

THIERRY Henry came off the bench to rescue a point for Barcelona as the Spanish leader came back to draw 2-2 at Valencia in the Primera Liga on Saturday.

Two quick goals before the break from Valencia's Hedwiges Maduro and Pablo Hernandez had helped the home side move 2-1 ahead, overturning Lionel Messi's opener for the visitors.

But Henry's deflected shot looped into the net for the equalizer with five minutes to go moving Barcelona seven points clear of Real Madrid, which was at Sevilla yesterday.

The Catalans have 82 points with five matches left ahead of the champion on 75, Sevilla with 57 and Valencia on 56.

"We showed a lot of courage not giving up the game for dead," Henry told La Sexta television. "We didn't want to lose here and we never gave up."

Valencia gave Barcelona little space to work in but it was sliced open by a swift interchange of passes between Andres Iniesta and Messi in the 24th minute, with Iniesta's final layoff leaving the Argentine with a tap-in.

The visitors continued to struggle with Valencia's swift breaking style, however, and the hosts drew level when visiting keeper Victor Valdes failed to hold a corner two minutes before the break, allowing Maduro to bundle the ball over.

Barcelona was still reeling when Hernandez burst from midfield, played a one-two with Juan Mata, and slid the ball under Valdes.

The visitors piled on the pressure in the second half and it was a weak punch from Valencia keeper Cesar Sanchez at a freekick that fell to Henry who struck the equalizer.

Improve its chances

Earlier, Malaga drew 1-1 with visiting Deportivo la Coruna to improve its chances of claiming a place in Europe next season.

Albert Luque's powerful drive gave the host the lead but Sergio's header just after halftime leveled the score, and Malaga's Apono had a late penalty saved by Daniel Aranzubia.

Malaga is sixth with 51 points, one ahead of Deportivo.

Bottom club Numancia lost 1-2 at Almeria and moved a step closer to a return to the second division.

In Italy, two goals by Alberto Gilardino helped Fiorentina to a 4-1 win over 10-man AS Roma in Serie A on Saturday.

The victory moved Fiorentina into fourth position with five games left, boosting its chances of a place in a two-legged playoff for a spot in the Champions League group stage.

Juan Manuel Vargas set the hosts on their way with a sixth-minute score.

Italy forward Gilardino headed in a Franco Semioli cross just after the break and then took advantage of poor defending to poke in his second before Massimo Gobbi completed the rout with a 73rd-minute tap-in.

Julio Baptista pulled one back in the closing stages for Roma, which had midfielder David Pizarro sent off for clashing with Semioli in the 59th.

Fiorentina has 58 points, one more than Genoa.

Defeat left injury-hit Roma, which was without suspended defender Philippe Mexes, in sixth spot on 52.

There were clashes between fans before the game and a window in Roma's team bus was smashed when it was entering the ground, Italian media reported.


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