SportSoccer

Barcelona's staggering demise continues after latest defeat

Gerard Pique missed a glorious late chance for Barca
Gerard Pique missed a glorious late chance for Barca

Spanish league leaders Barcelona are level on points with second-placed Atletico Madrid at the top of the Primera Division after Valencia consigned the Catalan club to a third straight league defeat for the first time since 2003.

Los Che recorded a shock 2-1 win at the Nou Camp, with a 26th-minute Ivan Rakitic own goal and a Santi Mina strike in first-half stoppage time putting the visitors in command.

Lionel Messi pulled a goal back just after the hour mark - his 500th career goal for club and country - but it was not enough to save a wobbling Barca who have now picked up just one point from their last four league games.

Earlier, Atletico comfortably saw off Granada 3-0 at the Vicente Calderon thanks to goals from Koke (15), Fernando Torres (59) and substitute Angel Correa (83).

It leaves Barca and Atletico - four days on from the latter eliminating the former from the Champions League - both on 76 points, with Real Madrid a point worse off in third and five more rounds of league games to come.

Barca, who had led Atletico by nine points just three weeks ago, still boast the better head-to-head record against both Madrid clubs this season, though, and have arguably the easiest run-in with no European distractions to contend with either.

Fourth-placed Villarreal were also in action on Sunday, suffering a 2-1 loss at Rayo Vallecano, who are now five points clear of the relegation zone in 16th place.

Rayo sealed victory through Miku's fine late header after Javi Guerra's early opener for the hosts had been swiftly cancelled out by a delightful Adrian finish.

Athletic Bilbao are fifth after they won 1-0 at eighth-placed Malaga courtesy of Raul Garcia's second-half header.

Seventh-placed Sevilla failed to win at home in the league for a second successive time as substitute Oriol Riera's late strike saw them held to a 1-1 draw by Deportivo La Coruna.

Unai Emery's men - who had won 13 home Primera Division games in a row before losing 2-1 to Real Sociedad at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan earlier this month - took the lead in the first half when Vicente Iborra netted with a header.