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January 04, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Valencia ended Real Madrid's 22-game winning streak by fighting back for a 2-1 victory on Sunday, but the blow was softened by Barcelona also stumbling to a 1-0 loss at Real Sociedad in the Spanish league.

Barcelona stepped onto the Anoeta pitch knowing a win would make it the provisional leader, but coach Luis Enrique chose a starting 11 without Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Barcelona went behind when Jordi Alba scored an own goal two minutes in and not even the two stars coming on as second-half substitutes could spark the comeback.

Barcelona's loss will likely fuel criticism of first-year coach Luis Enrique for his constant shuffling of his starting 11.

Luis Enrique justified his decision by saying "I thought it was best not to risk with Messi and Neymar after their long trip" back from Argentina and Brazil during the winter break.

David Moyes' Sociedad did little more than provoke two quick corner kicks, the second of which Alba headed into his net for his second own goal of the season.

Only with Messi and Neymar coming on after halftime did Barcelona turn its overwhelming possession into waves of chances. Luis Suarez had the best in the final five minutes, but goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli saved both.

"The ball didn't want to go in," said Xavi Hernandez. "We missed a chance to have gone ahead, but we have to keep going forward."

Barcelona hosts Atletico next.

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