Player ratings like Blaugrana secure a decisive victory in the La Liga title race

Lionel Messi’s brace and Antoine Griezmann’s goal were enough to win Barcelona’s exciting 3-2 victory over Valencia on Sunday night, keeping up the pressure in the La Liga title race.

Xavi Gracia’s decision to play five from behind and combine with Barcelona’s system worked wonders, stifling La Blaugrana’s creative advantage in the first half, although Ronald Coeman’s men did come painfully close to breaking the deadlock before Pedro and Ronald interval.

However, it was the hosts who managed to find the opening five minutes after the second half. Gabriel Paulista shot with his head with a header from a corner and although the guests requested a free kick for a foul on Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Valencia withdrew in celebration.

However, Barça quickly found an answer after Tony Lato managed to cross the field from Messi’s cross in the 57th minute. The Argentine saw his exact shot, saved by Jasper Kilesen, but after stirring the door he managed to realize close.

Koeman’s men wereted no time in getting ahead and putting their second goal up in the 63rd minute. Frankie de Jong’s header was brilliantly saved by Cillessen (how unhappy can you get?), Only for Griezmann to return the rebound into an empty net and make it 2-1. Messi then secured the bracket six minutes later, deliciously converting a free kick from about 25 yards and, this time, giving Cillessen absolutely no chance.

Gracia’s team has been pushing for goals lately and managed to get one back through Carlos Soler seven minutes from time. The midfielder climbed on the ball about 30 yards from the door and unleashed a great shot, which spread in the upper corner of Ter Stegen.

Despite the late pressure, La Blaugrana held on to a vital victory that moved them point-by-point with Real Madrid and just two behind leaders Atletico, who play next weekend – now It is title race.

Here are your player ratings for Barcelona.

Gerard Pique, Goncalo Guedes
Gerard Pique was solid throughout the game Quality sports images / Getty images

Mark-Andre Ter Stegen (GK) – 6/10 – He made a few decent saves, but was weak from the corner that led to the door of Valencia, coming down too easily under the pressure of Thierry Korea and could not do anything about Soler’s efforts.

Ronald Araujo (CB) – 7/10 –
He was sometimes left vulnerable by his wingback, but he was too strong and composed to withstand Jose Gaia’s threat. It also provided a threat of figures and was the width of Cillessen’s biceps away from bringing his side forward in the first half.

Gerard Pique (CB) – 7/10 – He was always Barça’s last man and covered his teammates well when Valencia put the ball forward. He stood close to people like Maxi Gomez and Gonzalo Guedes and towered over them, winning six air battles.

Clement Lenglet (CB) – 5/10 – You’ll be forgiven for sometimes confusing him as a central midfielder as he stepped up to help spread the game, but he couldn’t actually make any penetrating passes. He was weak to lose Gabriel in the opening box of Valencia, and failed to close Soler for their second.

Frankie De Jong, Uros Racic
Frankie De Jong impressed again Quality sports images / Getty images

Sergino Dest (RWB) – 5/10 – He found himself in some promising areas up the right flank, but he never seemed likely to strike. He remains demanding in defense, fails to follow quickly enough and leaves Araujo isolated at times.

Frankie de Jong (CM) – 8/10 –
He provided his usual dynamism throughout the field and was crucial in the last third. His move created real problems in the back line of the opposition, applying pressure to win a penalty for the first side and forcing Cillessen to save the second with brilliant arrows in the box.

Sergio Busquets (CM) – 8/10 – Another aggressive performance in defense that makes most of his eight recoveries good in the opposition half and sustains attacks with his effective ball recycling.

Pedri (CM) – 7/10 – Visibly energetic from his break in the middle of the week and was a threat to the back line of Valencia. They constantly find pockets of space and are fantastically connected to teammates around the area.

Jordi Alba (LWB) – 6/10 – Always provided an option wide and made good runs to get in from behind. He provided quality in the box sporadically, especially placing the cross, which led to the second of his team.

Lionel Messi (ST) – 9/10 – He wasn’t electrified in any way, but he was still a hero on his side, putting on a brace to inspire them to a huge victory – of course he did. These are 28 La Liga goals for the season.

Antoine Griezmann (ST) – 8/10 – Worked tirelessly from the ball and showed excellent movement and vision to help create opportunities in the last third. He received his prize for an influential trip with a simple push and made 2-1.

Elijah Moriba (CM) – 6/10

Sergi Roberto (RWB) – 6/10

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