For most teams, a slump is losing a few games in a row.

For Barcelona, it is tying two consecutive games.

Barca played its second successive 1-1 draw within five days with a tie at Valencia on Sunday.

On Wednesday, La Liga's leaders played host Real Madrid to the same result in the first leg of Copa del Rey.

On the bright side for Barcelona, Argentine international Lionel Messi continued his astounding scoring streak by finding the back of the net for the 12th consecutive game. He converted a penalty kick in the 38th minute, his 34th goal this season. Ever Banega had given Valencia a 32nd-minute lead.

"It's possible we were suffering a bit from the Madrid game, but I would point out the work of our rival," Barca assistant coach Jordi Roura said. "In five years, we have only won once here. A draw is a fair result."

Second-place Atletico Madrid moved within nine points of Barca behind a 1-0 home win over Real Betis. Colombian striker Radamel Falcao returned from injury, but did not score. Substitute Diego Costa did, heading in a corner kick in the 61st minute. Atletico, which has won all its 12 home matches, has allowed only six goals in those games.

Third-place Real Madrid's miseries continued in a 1-0 loss at struggling Granada as Cristiano Ronaldo scored -- an own goal -- heading the ball into his own net off a corner kick in the 22nd minute. Real trails its archrivals by 16 points.

SPAIN

Carlos Vela, Gonzalo Castro, Diego Ifran

Vela, a Mexican, sandwiched a goal between scores by his Uruguayan teammates in a 3-0 home triumph over Real Mallorca. Castro tallied in the 55th minute before Vela scored his ninth goal of the season in the 70th minute. Ifran closed out the rout in the 88th minute.

Emiliano Armenteros

The Argentine scored the game's lone goal in the 55th minute to boost Osasuna to a 1-0 home victory over Celta Vigo.

Abel Aguilar

His team Deportivo Coruna was tied with Getafe, 1-1, and enjoying a one-man advantage, but the Colombian was red carded in the 71st minute. Getafe struck behind Alvaro Vazquez (81st minute) and Adrian Colunga (84th) in a 3-1 Deportivo loss.

Alejandro Dominguez

The Argentine converted a penalty kick in the 51st minute, but it wasn't enough for visiting Rayo Vallecano in a 2-1 loss at Sevilla.

ITALY

Arturo Vidal


Vidal, a Chilean, set up Juventus' first goal in its 2-1 triumph at Chievo. His diagonal chip pass found Alessandro Matri, who scored off a volley in the 10th minute.

Carlos Carmona, German Denis


They did their damage in the second half of Atalanta Bergamo's 2-1 away victory over Palermo. Carmona, a Chilean, struck in the 54th minute, while the Argentine Denis added an insurance tally 17 minutes later.

ENGLAND

Sergio Aguero, Pepe Reina


Aguero connected for the equalizing goal, scoring from a difficult angle in the 78th minute as Manchester City managed to pull off a 2-2 home tie with Liverpool. Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, came charging out of goal and the Argentine chipped the ball past the Spaniard into an open goal.

Jonas Gutierrez, Juan Mata

Argentines stood out on both sides of the field in Newcastle's 3-2 home upset of Chelsea. Gutierrez, a midfielder, helped struggling Newcastle, connecting for the first goal of the match via a 41st-minute header. The Blues recovered to grab a 2-1 lead as Mata tallied off a curling shot in the 61st minute. Midfielder Moussa Sissoko struck for the next two goals for the hosts, including the game-winner in the final minute.

Javier Hernandez, Bryan Ruiz, Antonio Valencia

Before they joined their respective teams for World Cup qualifying, Costa Rican forward Bryan Ruiz and his Mexican counterpart, striker Javier Hernandez, had some unfinished business with their club teams. It turned out to be a frustrating game for Ruiz and his Fulham teammates, who went down to a 1-0 home defeat to EPL leader Manchester United. Ruiz, who sparked the attack, hit the right post with a shot in the 15th minute. He also had an eight-yard attempt, but could not get a clean connection on a rebound of a teammate's shot in the 71st minute. Chicharito, who replaced Ecuador's Valencia in the 66th minute, did not score, although he could have given the visitors an insurance tally two minutes into stoppage time, but the Fulham goalkeeper stopped his shot off the counterattack.

FRANCE

Guillermo Ochoa

With AC Ajaccio clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 87th minute, the Mexican goalkeeper made a penalty-kick save on Bafetimbi Gomis. Gomis was fouled by Felipe Saad in the penalty area. Ajaccio added a penalty kick by Adrian Mutu, his second goal of the match, in stoppage time to secure a 3-1 win.

Javier Pastore

Pastore and his Paris St Germain teammates celebrated the signing of David Beckham with an emphatic 4-0 away win over Toulouse. The Argentinean sparked the visitors with a fourth-minute goal.

Marco Estrada

Estrada, a Chilean, scored in the 64th minute of Montpellier's 3-1 home victory over Stade de Reims.

PORTUGAL

Jackson Martinez

The Colombian striker recorded a natural hat-trick in FC Porto's 4-0 away win over Vitoria Guimaraes. After Eliaquim Mangala had given the visitors the lead in the 15th minute, Martinez struck in the 36th, 56th and 72nd minutes.

Enzo Perez

The Argentinean midfielder scored for Benfica in its 3-0 home victory over Setubal.

GREECE

Emanuel Perrone


Talk about rising to the occasion under pressure. The Argentine forward converted a penalty kick six minutes into stoppage time to lift Asteras Tripolis into a 2-2 draw with visiting Panathinaikos.

Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for more than three decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.

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