May 8, 2021

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Valencia 2-3 Barcelona: Messi saves title pursuers at Mestalla


Barcelona have resisted fears of beating Valencia 3-2 and set up a clash between Camp Nou and La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid next weekend.

Lionel Messi missed a penalty but scored twice, including a sublime free kick, with Antoine Griezmann also on target at Mestalla.

Barcelona’s goals came after the conceding shake early in the second half when Gabriel Paulista started from a corner to give the hosts the lead with visiting boss Ronald Koeman banned from the sideline after his dismissal in the shock defeat against Granada.

Carlos Soler drove in a spectacular second late for Valencia, but Barcelona’s success means they are back just two points behind Atletico and again tied with Real Madrid, as the racing saga in the title heads to an exciting conclusion.

Pedri wasted a big chance in the third minute as he shot away from the right post after being caught by Frenkie de Jong, and Ronald Araujo’s effort on the stretch of a teasing free kick from Messi took been blocked by goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

Valencia’s Goncalo Guedes should have scored early in the second half but allowed Marc-Andre ter Stegen to push his shot wide for a corner kick. However, Gabriel wasn’t wrong when Soler swept the set-piece from the left, heading to the far post.

Barcelona equalized in the 57th minute thanks to Messi, despite his failure on the spot. Toni Lato conceded the kick after pricking his right arm on a floating pass from Messi, and although the Argentine saw his tame penalty parried by Cillessen, Pedri’s shot as the ball circled around the surface was deflected towards the Barcelona record scorer, who scored from close range. interval.

The visitors took the lead six minutes later when De Jong’s powerful header over Jordi Alba’s cross was well saved by Cillessen but only touched Griezmann, who made it home.

Messi’s second goal was a 69th-minute curling free-kick from a central starting point that found the back of the net via the inside of the right post, giving the goalkeeper little chance, a specialty of the captain of the Barça.

He was arguably overcome by Soler’s brilliant long-range finish in the 83rd minute, but Valencia couldn’t find a leveler.

What does it mean?

Barcelona were the dominant team here, but they needed a helping hand – literally – to get back to an even level after the shock of conceding shortly after half-time.

Messi’s tame penalty showed the tension was affecting even him, and it was a lucky break that allowed him to atone.

Valencia had their chances, but their eight-game unbeaten streak at home is over. Barcelona had not won in their last three trips to Mestalla (D2 L1), so this victory is not to be sniffed at.

Messi’s mixed bag still contained magic

It feels like Messi is in love with Barcelona again. He wants this title and naturally he was the driving force behind this victory. Barcelona had 68% possession and Messi had five shots, three of which were on target – including the saved kick.

He had 107 touches, beaten only by Alba and Clement Lenglet, and was involved in 14 duels at the top of the squad, winning nine of those (64.3%), and of course he plundered those two. goals, bringing his career tally to 31 in 36 games against Valencia in all competitions.

It was only against Sevilla (38 of 43) and Atletico (32 of 42) that Messi scored more goals during his Barcelona career.

Lato lends a hand

Messi’s delicious helping hand in Valencia’s penalty area was about to reach De Jong when Lato gave a hand and paid the penalty. It was a moment that he will replay in his head, wondering how much a De Jong banker was really going to score, and he almost got away with it when Messi’s occasional penalty kick was pushed back. It was the most temporary respite, however. Lato left injured seven minutes later. It really wasn’t his night.

And after?

An unmissable Camp Nou clash with Atletico leaders awaits Barcelona next Saturday. Valencia will face Real Valladolid’s fourth bottom the next day.